Sunday, December 19, 2010

Media Reporting High Levels of Toxic Metal In Chicago, Milwaukee Drinking Water; Madison Worse

[See Milwaukee Water Works Update, below at bottom]:

If accurate, a disturbing report.

From WGN's Breaking News Center:

"Cancer-causing metal found in Chicago-area tap water
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The cancer-causing metal made infamous by the movie "Erin Brockovich" is turning up in tap water from Chicago and more than two dozen other cities, according to a new study that urges federal regulators to adopt tougher standards.

Even though scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Toxicology Program have linked the ingestion of hexavalent chromium to cancer, the EPA doesn't require Chicago or other cities to test for the toxic metal. Nor does the EPA limit the dangerous form of chromium in drinking water.

To take a snapshot of what is flowing through taps across the nation, the Environmental Working Group hired an independent laboratory that found the metal in treated drinking water from 31 cities. The amount in Lake Michigan Chicago water pumped to 7 million people in Chicago and its suburbs was 0.18 parts per billion, three times higher than a safety limit California officials proposed last year.

A handful of other cities were significantly above the proposed California limit, including Norman, Okla.; Honolulu; Riverside, Calif., and Madison, Wis., according to a report to be released Monday.

Levels in Milwaukee water were the same as in Chicago."
I have a question in by email to the Milwaukee Water Works about the story - - an earlier version appeared in The Washington Post about the metal being found in drinking water there, and in suburban Bethesda - - and I am sure there will be more information available Monday.

Madison's water tested 4th highest among the cities sampled, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.


The Milwaukee Water Works Monday morning posted this response:

Consumer Information about Chromium-VI -- Dec. 20, 2010

There is a news story today about a study by an environmental advocacy group that says America’s drinking water is contaminated with Chromium-VI or Hexavalent Chromium, a chemical that came to national attention in the 2000 feature film Erin Brockovich.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report on its recent study of Chromium-VI, as found in water samples the EWG gathered from many cities that have previously detected Total Chromium. The EWG wants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set a legal limit for Chromium-VI and require water utilities to test for the chemical.

Consumers can be assured Milwaukee drinking water meets all EPA regulatory requirements for safe and healthful drinking water. The Milwaukee Water Works (MWW) is committed to protecting public health.

The EPA, in its Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), regulates Total Chromium in the finished water leaving the treatment plants. The allowable limit per EPA is 100 micrograms/L or parts per billion. The EPA does not currently regulate Chromium-VI.

The Milwaukee Water Works tests annually for Total Chromium as required by the SDWA. The most recent test in 2010 found no Total Chromium. The detection limit for MWW analyses for Total Chromium is 2 micrograms/L, so MWW reports <2 micrograms/L (less than 2 micrograms/L). In previous years, Total Chromium was measured between none detectable and 9 micrograms/L. MWW has not previously tested specifically for Chromium-VI, but has arranged to test for it in the finished water and distribution system. 

EPA is evaluating new health effects data on Chromium-VI. The evaluation is expected to be completed in late 2011. MWW is prepared to respond in a way that protects public health and meets federal and state standards.

The Milwaukee Water Works tests source and treated drinking water for over 500 contaminants even though the EPA requires tests for only 90. This is done as a precaution to ensure safe water, to collect baseline data for study and to meet future regulations. To ensure the public is fully aware of all water quality monitoring data, MWW publicizes it in the annual consumer confidence report and on its website.

The Milwaukee Water Works treats Lake Michigan water in a multiple-step process to remove illness-causing microorganisms and contaminants. The water is disinfected with ozone, a highly reactive gas that destroys microorganisms, removes taste and odor, and reduces byproducts from chlorine disinfection. Coagulation, settling, and biologically active filtration remove additional particles. Fluoride is added for dental health. Final chloramine disinfection ensures safe drinking water throughout the distribution system and at consumer faucets.


Anonymous said...

Waukesha's choice is: a. radium removal, or b. Spend $162 million to transport hexachromium 6 tainted water at a cost 22% more than last week's price?

Anonymous said...

Interesting read about the history of California's pursuit of regulating Chromium six in drinking water:

"The EPA, however, had a suspicion it was. In April 1997, the agency received a study it’d commissioned on the magnitude of the Valley’s chromium 6 groundwater contamination. The report, compiled by consultant CH2M Hill, found chromium ranging as high as 72,000 parts per billion. Most of that sat underneath industrial hotspots on the flanks of the Golden State Freeway through Glendale and Burbank."

Worth the read.