There's still too much toxic hexavalent chromium in Sacramento's drinking water/tap water. See the news release, "Press Release - NRDC, EWG Sue to Protect Millions of Californians." After a few years, consumers of tap water are wondering why so little has been done when an estimated 31 million people are still being exposed to cancer-causing hexavalent chromium, which is also known as the "Erin Brockovich" chemical so often mentioned in the media.
At the same time, plastic water bottles are filling up the sites where trash is dumped as many people still don't recycle plastic water bottles but simply toss them in public garbage cans or their own residential trash cans. Not enough information is posted where plastic water bottles can be recycled and whether the plastic bottle recycling locations are easy to find and/or near public transportation.
Last year a news release from the "Environmental News: Media Center," reported on August 14, 2012, in San Francisco, that the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group today sued the California Department of Public Health for failing to protect millions of Californians from hexavalent chromium, the cancer-causing chemical made infamous in the movie “Erin Brockovich” for contaminating drinking water and sickening residents in the town of Hinkley, California. The agency was supposed to establish a safe drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium eight years ago, but has failed in its duty to safeguard citizens from the toxin.
“Millions of Californians are drinking toxic water today due to government neglect,” said Nicholas Morales, attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, according to the August 14, 2012 news release. “The State has not protected our drinking water supply from this carcinogen, so we’re going to the courts to put a stop to it. Clean drinking water is a precious resource, and it’s about time it’s treated as such.”
One third of drinking water samples were contaminated
An Environmental Working Group analysis of official records from the California Department of Public Health’s water quality testing conducted between 2000 and 2011 revealed that about one-third of the more than 7,000 drinking water sources sampled were contaminated with hexavalent chromium at levels that exceed safe limits. These water sources are spread throughout 52 of 58 counties, impacting an estimated 31 million Californians.
In 2001, the California State Legislature mandated the agency adopt a standard by January 1, 2004, giving it two years to do so. Eight years past its legal deadline, the agency still hasn’t made any visible progress and says it could take several more years before a final standard is completed. Filed in the California Superior Court of Alameda, NRDC and EWG’s suit contends the department’s delay is unjustified and it must rapidly proceed to finalize the standard.
“Communities all over California and the U.S. are being poisoned by this dangerous chemical,” said Erin Brockovich, an environmental and consumer advocate, according to the news release. “We have waited long enough and the people of California should not continue to be exposed to unsafe levels of this toxin in their tap water. The California Department of Public Health needs to do its job and adopt a strong standard for hexavalent chromium in drinking water.”
Sacramento's drinking water exceeded the safe limits of hexavalent chromium
Drinking water sources in Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles and Riverside were found to exceed the safe limits of hexavalent chromium, according to a 2010 Environmental Working Group report that tested 25 U.S. cities’ tap water for hexavalent chromium contamination.
The report also found this threat isn’t limited to California. At least 74 million Americans in thousands of communities across 42 states drink tap water polluted with “total chromium,” which includes hexavalent and other forms of the metal.
Even though hexavalent chromium is known to cause cancer, reproductive harm and other severe health effects, there is no national or state drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium. Therefore, water agencies don’t have to comprehensively monitor for or remove hexavalent chromium before it comes out of the tap.
“You’d think the state of California would have moved quickly to protect its citizens from this carcinogen, which, sadly, still flows from the taps of millions of residents,” Renee Sharp, a senior scientist and director of EWG’s California office said, according to the news release. “It’s absolutely unacceptable that at this minute countless children in California are likely drinking a glass of water laced with unsafe levels hexavalent chromium.”
Will the goal of safe tap water ever be achieved?
The California EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment announced a final “Public Health Goal” for hexavalent chromium in drinking water in July 2011, a preliminary step in creating a drinking water standard. The goal was set at 0.02 parts per billion, a level that does not pose a significant health risk to people.
While this goal has been set for more than a year, the department has not taken the necessary steps for setting a “Maximum Contaminant Level” – the maximum concentration of a chemical that is allowed in public drinking water systems – for hexavalent chromium.
The department’s plan to take several more years to finalize a rulemaking that is already eight years behind schedule is too long, especially since the agency could fall behind its own intended schedule, and industry pressure could delay the standard even more, according to the news release of August 14, 2012. Is anything happening yet?
Communities adjacent to industrial facilities using hexavalent chromium or Superfund sites, such as low income communities like Hinkley and communities of color are among those most highly exposed to hexavalent chromium pollution. People can be exposed to hexavalent chromium by drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food, by inhaling it, or by exposure to contaminated soils.
Hexavalent chromium usually enters the drinking water supply by running off from industrial operations into surface waters or leaching from soil into groundwater
Hexavalent chromium is used for the production of stainless steel, textile dyes, wood preservation, leather tanning, and as an anti-corrosive as well as a variety of niche uses. Due to its wide use by industry, hexavalent chromium is a common pollutant found at contaminated sites and has been documented at approximately two-thirds of Superfund sites.
Read more about the health impacts of hexavalent chromium in a blog by Sarah Janssen, senior scientist in NRDC’s Public Health Program. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists.
Since 1970, the organization's lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit the Council at the NRDC site and follow the organization on Twitter @NRDC.
Chromium 6, known as hexavalent chromium is unsafe at levels still in Sacramento tap water
A cancer-causing chemical called chromium 6 (hexavalent chromium) is at unsafe levels in Sacramento tap water and also has been found found in 89 percent of cities sampled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). According to a study from a few years ago released on December 21, 2010 from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Sacramento contains an unsafe level of the carcinogenic chromium 6 (hexavalent chromium) measured at the unsafe level of 0.16 parts per billion of hexavalent chromium. California's safe level, according to the state government, is supposed to be at less than 0.07 parts per billion of chromium 6.
In contrast, nearby Reno, NV, has no levels detected of hexavalent chromium. Who's going to get the carcinogenic chromium 6 out of Sacramento water, and when? And why is there so much hexavalent chromium in Sacramento water, but no detectable levels in nearby Reno? Check out EWG's table, a graphic listing numbers of various chromium-6 levels measured in 25 cities’ tap water that exceed the safe limit proposed by California officials.*
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) also has Sacramento offices located at 1107 9th Street, Suite 340, Sacramento, CA 95814. If you have a question, check out that website. At EWG, the organization's team of scientists, engineers, policy experts, lawyers and computer programmers pore over government data, legal documents, scientific studies and other data. Here's the website to contact the EWG's Sacramento Office.
Concentrations of hexavalent chromium levels were measured in Sacramento
In a news release from a few years ago released on December 21, 2010, the EWG measured concentrations of hexavalent chromium in four California cities--Sacramento, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Jose. On the organization's table of measurements, you can see the "red dots" on their table of measurements. The EWG recommends that the EPA should move expeditiously to establish a legal limit for the chemical in tap water and require water utilities to test for it.
The state of California must establish a strong standard for hexavalent chromium in tap water immediately. A truly health-protective hexavalent chromium regulation will reduce the cancer risk for Californians and serve as a model for the nation. With an enforceable standard already six years past the statutory deadline and the health of millions of Californians at stake, the state cannot move too quickly. On the organization's table of measurements, the size of the red dots reflect the level found.
Colored areas on the table reflect population-adjusted average concentrations of hexavalent chromium by county, as calculated by county from EWG's tap water database. See their website on Study Methodology. The state's current testing protocols can't detect chromium-6 in amounts lower than 1 part per billion (ppb), more than 16 times higher than the proposed safe level. Sources refer to the EWG-commissioned testing for hexavalent chromium in tap water from four California cities. EWG analysis of water utility testing data was obtained from state water agencies (EWG 2009).
If you remember the "Erin Brockovich" movie, this is the same chemical that's in tap water in 31 American cities tested so far. Sacramento has a medium level, but the highest levels were in Riverside, CA, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Norman, OK. Water samples from 25 cities contained the toxic metal at concentrations above the safe maximum proposed by California regulators. For further information, check out the websites of the National Toxicology Program and the US Environmental Protection Agency, both of which also found that hexavalent chromium in tap water is "likely to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans."
What: Facts about the Environmental Working Group
EWG wants to protect the most vulnerable segments of the human population-children, babies, and infants in the womb- from health problems attributed to a wide array of toxic contaminants. Also EWG wants to replace federal policies, including government subsidies that damage the environment and natural resources, with policies that invest in conservation and sustainable development.
Why: EWG is well-respected in many fields
"An environmental group with clout." - USA Today
"A green dream team of computer programmers, policy experts and engineers." - Associated Press
"An environmental advocacy organization that has a knack for shaping government data into punchy calculations." - Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"The Environmental Working Group has become a respected watchdog of environmental and land-use policies since its founding in 1993." - The Hill.