03.05.12

Rep. Schiff Urges California Department of Public Health to Move Quickly to Establish Limits for Chromium 6 in Drinking Water and Condemns Delays

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) sent a letter to California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Director Ron Chapman urging the department to move quickly to establish a Maximum Containment Level (MCL) for Chromium 6. Before treatment, underground water from some local wells contains between 45 and 70 parts per billion of Chromium 6. It was recently announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency planned to install 30 wells in the Glendale-Burbank area this month to monitor levels of Chromium 6 in underground water.

“The National Toxicology Program established that Chromium 6 is hazardous, harmful and carcinogenic,” said Rep. Schiff. “And while we already know that high levels of Chromium 6 can cause cancer, the state has dragged its feet in setting a standard to protect our drinking water and health. The standard should have been set years ago, and it’s time for them to finally finish the job.”

In the letter, Schiff stated: “Given that this issue impacts the safety of drinking water, that kind of delay is unconscionable. We have been concerned for over a decade that Chromium 6 could cause cancer and we have known now for five years that it does in fact cause cancer when ingested through drinking water, yet there still is no statewide standard that will protect millions of Californians from this harmful compound. I strongly urge CDPH to move as quickly and responsibly as possible to establish a MCL for Chromium 6 for drinking water that takes into account the views of the multiple participants in the statewide drinking water system – experts, consumers, water districts and others – so that Californians can be assured that their drinking water is safe to consume.”

In 2001, Rep. Schiff spearheaded an effort to commission the study by the National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Program. The two year study found that high doses of Chromium 6 in drinking water cause cancer in lab rodents. The link between Chromium 6 and cancer garnered national attention after the release of the movie “Erin Brockovich” in 2000. Congressman Schiff has long worked to keep Chromium 6 out of drinking water, dating back to his work in the California State Senate.

As a State Senator, he sponsored a bill requiring the California Department of Health Services to prepare a report on the amount of Chromium 6 in the San Fernando Valley aquifer and the danger it poses to residents. Additionally, Rep. Schiff has secured more than a million and a half dollars to develop technology capable of removing heavy metals such as Chromium 6 from drinking water in Glendale. 

The full letter to the CDPH is below: 

March 5 , 2012

Dr. Ron Chapman

Director

California Department of Public Health

1615 Capitol Avenue, MS 0500

Sacramento, CA 95814

 

Dear Director Chapman,

As you know, in 2001 concerns that Hexavalent Chromium, or Chromium 6, has carcinogenic properties when ingested by humans led the California legislature to pass and Governor Davis to sign legislation requiring the establishment of a Maximum Containment Level (MCL) for Chromium 6 in drinking water by January 1, 2004.

And a decade ago I requested a National Toxicology Program study to determine whether Chromium 6 can cause cancer when ingested through drinking water. The conclusion of that study -- considered the gold standard in the scientific community -- was that Chromium 6 was indeed carcinogenic. Nonetheless, an MCL still has not been established even though the deadline for setting an MCL for Chromium 6 passed over eight years ago.

At the same time that I requested the NTP study, I also worked with the City of Glendale to help fund a new technology to remove Hexavalent Chromium from the water. That multi-year pilot is ongoing and promising new technologies have been developed. The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment released multiple draft Public Health Goals (PHG) on a safe level of Chromium 6 in drinking water before finally releasing a final PHG in July 2011. The final PHG recommended a maximum level of 0.02 parts per billion for Chromium 6 in drinking water and allowed the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to begin work on setting an MCL.

I understand that CDPH must consider several factors in establishing a MCL, including the PHG, the technical feasibility of setting a MCL and the economic impact of a MCL, and I am aware this can often take a significant period of time, sometimes as long as two to four years. However, even if CDPH was able to set a MCL within two years of completion of the PHG it would be nearly 10 years after the initial deadline to establish a MCL.

Given that this issue impacts the safety of drinking water, that kind of delay is unconscionable. We have been concerned for over a decade that Chromium 6 could cause cancer and we have known now for five years that it does in fact cause cancer when ingested through drinking water, yet there still is no statewide standard that will protect millions of Californians from this harmful compound.

I strongly urge CDPH to move as quickly and responsibly as possible to establish a MCL for Chromium 6 for drinking water that takes into account the views of the multiple participants in the statewide drinking water system – experts, consumers, water districts and others – so that Californians can be assured that their drinking water is safe to consume. 

I look forward to hearing from CDPH about what steps the agency is taking to set a MCL in a timely fashion.

Sincerely,

 

Adam B. Schiff

Member of Congress