/ current-issues

Hexavalent Chromium found in US Water

CNN reported today that 31 of 35 cities tested by the Environmental Working Group had measurable levels of Chromium-6 in their water supply. Fans of the movie Erin Brockovich will recognize that Chromium-6 was the chemical that infected the water supply in a small California town that resulted in a huge payout from utilities provider PG&E.

While Chromium may be a name that inspires awe for those in tech circles (it is the name of the project that drives the open source innovation behind Google Chrome), the report by the EWG found levels of Chromium as high as 12.90 parts per billion in Norman, OK. The nearest test site to me, and probably most of my readers, was Atlanta, which tested at 0.20 parts per billion. Just across the state line in Tallahassee the EWG measured 1.25 parts per billion. Honolulu was among the highest at 2.00 parts per billion.

In Hinkley, California, the groundwater contamination of Hexavalent Chromium was found to sit at 0.58 parts per million. This was well in excess of the EPA’s 0.1 parts per million limit for groundwater, and the EPA has yet to establish a limit for drinking water. Despite the lack of an official EPA limit, I remain concerned about the presence of this chemical in our water supply. While it is true we have pharmaceuticals galore in our water supply already (congratulations, with every sip you could be getting a micro-sized dose of birth control! yay!), those are specifically engineered to affect us in a certain way. The absence of an EPA limit for drinking water seems to indicate a lack of understanding about how Chromium-6 could affect humans at those levels. As an additional scare factor, it doesn’t seem that bottled water is immune to this problem – as it can come from the same sources that the polluted tap water comes from.

My hope is that the CNN report will result in an outcry in the communities that have the highest amount of Chromium. As of about 2:30PM on December 20th, the official City website of Norman, OK, does not mention anything about the Chromium-6 content found in their water, however their newspaper, the Norman Transcript, has posted a pretty good article on the situation.

Finally, I’d also like to give mad photography props to flickr user leunix for today’s feature image. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and corrections on this article through some comment love.