Recently colleague James Tyree and I wrote a series of stories regarding chromium 6 in drinking water.
James wrote about a recent survey that listed Norman has having a high quantity of chromium 6 in it’s drinking water and local experts take on the study and the risk of chromium 6.
I wrote about how Debate has raged on the risk posed by chromium 6 since the 1990s, when legal clerk Erin Brockovich discovered evidence of the carcinogen in the groundwater in Hinkley, Calif.
And I wrote about the contentious battle going on in California over a proposed goal to limit the amount of the chromium 6 that can be in public drinking water.
Now that battle could get even more contentious as the California agency in charge with coming up with the goal released a new draft document on New Year’s Eve that lowered the already stringent proposed standard.
When the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the California agency in charge of developing the Public Health Goal, first offered a standard, it proposed limiting chromium 6 in drinking water to 0.06 parts per billion. Such a reading is 215 times less than the 12.9 ppb found in Norman’s drinking water by the survey conducted by the Environmental Working Group.
The revised draft public health goal — which you can read here in it’s 150-page glory — lowers the proposed standard to 0.02 ppb. For those keeping score, that’s 645 times less than the amount of chromium 6 found in Norman’s drinking water. It’s also about 29,000 times less than the up to 580 ppb measured in Hinkley’s drinking water in the 1990s.
The new proposal is sure to ratchet up the support from environmental groups and objections that many water utilities and business interests voiced in 2009 with the release of the 0.06 ppb proposal.
Many environmental groups and legislators are looking at California as a test case on how much to limit and how feasible it is to limit chromium 6 in drinking water.
It will be interesting to see if those groups also adopt the 0.02 ppb proposal, a standard based on a one-in-a-million-lifetime-cancer-risk level — or the expectation that for every million people who drink tap water with 0.02 ppb of chromium each day for 70 years there would be only one additional case of cancer from exposure to the carcinogen.
But, even with all the focus on California, it should be noted that the state is a long way off from adopting an enforceable standard. The Public Health Goal will only serve as guidance for the California Department of Public Health when it develops the nation’s first drinking water standard for chromium 6. And the adoption of such a standard is likely four to five years away.