California is the only state in the United States with a policy that could see reductions in the level of hexvalent chromium, a chemical linked to cancers and other illnesses, in the drinking water supplies. That could be a critical step, since a recent analysis of the water supply of 31 cities, two of the top five were in the state. The Environmental Working Group describes the rest of their findings on hexvalent chromium levels:
EWG’s investigation is the broadest publicly available survey of hexavalent chromium to date. The 31 cities with chromium-polluted tap water draw from utilities that collectively serve more than 26 million people. In California, the only state that requires testing for hexavalent chromium, water utilities have detected the compound in tap water supplied to more than 31 million people, according to an EWG analysis of data from the state water agency (EWG 2009).
EWG’s tests provide a one-time snapshot of chromium-6 levels in 35 cities. But chromium pollution is a continuous, ongoing problem, as shown by the annual water quality reports that utilities must produce under federal law. Over the years, nearly all of the 35 cities tested by EWG regularly report finding chromium (in the form of total chromium) in their water despite using far less sensitive testing methods than those used by EWG.
Of note, the recommended level for California utilities to hit is 0.06 parts per billion, although regulators are finding it difficult to get utilities on board. To compare, San Jose has hexvalent chromium levels of 1.34 parts per billion, or 22 times the recommended limit, while Riverside has 1.69, or nearly 30 times the limit.
[Image: Charles & Hudson via Flickr]