California must establish drinking water standards

Global Times-Agencies | 2013-8-8
By Agencies – Global Times

A court ruling required California to set a standard to protect millions of residents from unsafe levels of a carcinogen in the state’s drinking water by the end of August.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo sided late last month with two environmental groups in their attempt to force the state’s Department of Public Health to obey a requirement to limit the chemical compound – hexavalent chromium – in the state’s drinking water, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The newspaper also said that the department was required by law to set a limit by 2004, but has not done so, placing it “in ongoing violation” of that law, Grillo wrote.

The court’s decision comes nearly one year after the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Working Group sued the agency for failing to protect millions of Californians from hexavalent chromium, NRDC announced.

“An estimated 31 million people are exposed to unsafe levels of cancer-causing hex chrome due to government inaction. Now, the department’s focus should be on setting a standard that adequately protects public health,” said Nicholas Morales, attorney at the NRDC.

Studies show that hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6, can cause cancer in people and has been found to cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract, lymph nodes and liver of animals. The chemical comes chiefly from industrial pollution and often used for production of stainless steel, textile dyes, wood preservation, leather tanning and as an anti-corrosive, AP reported.

The agency said that results of state water quality testing conducted between 2000 and 2011 throughout California showed that about a third of the 7,000 drinking water sources tested had hexavalent chromium levels at or above a preliminary benchmark set by the California EPA. The highest concentrations were reported in Southern California, including Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Santa Barbara counties.

The federal limit for drinking is 100 parts per billion of total chromium, while California has a limit half that amount – 50 parts per billion for total chromium concentrations in water, said the local newspaper Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

California Department of Public Health  spokesman Ronald Owens said in a statement that the agency’s “dedicated efforts to establish a proposed drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium are nearly complete. The regulatory package with the proposed standard is under final internal review, and is expected to be released for public comment in August.”

The ruling left an opening for the state to come back to the court in October to discuss its progress, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported.