Starting Tuesday, California will be the first state to specifically regulate the amount of chromium-6 allowed in its drinking water, public health officials announced.
The state standard for chromium-6 in groundwater is now set at 10 parts per billion, as opposed to the federal standard of 100 parts per billion for total chromium.
Chromium-6 is a radioactive cancer-causing isotope made famous by Erin Brockovich’s lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric, which won a multi-million dollar settlement against the company for leeching the chemical into the groundwater.
The federal limit includes chromium-3, which is less toxic than chromium-6 and an essential nutrient at low doses.
Officials in some smaller water distribution centers are not pleased with the new regulation.
Christopher Dalstrom, general manager of the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, sent a letter to the California Department of Health, arguing that the limit placed on the chemical would increase costs for customers and possibly leave the District “financially crippled.”
In the letter, Dalstrom said further study was needed to determine the threshold level where chromium-6 becomes dangerous to human health.
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Ramon Abueg, Glendale Water and Power’s chief assistant general manager, said he finds the limitations set by the state to be reasonable, but he realizes different locations have different circumstances.
Health officials though have reiterated their commitment to keeping cromium-6 out of the water supply.
“Establishing this maximum contaminant level (MCL) underscores California’s commitment to safe drinking water standards to protect the public health,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, a state public health officer, in a statement.