Kate Ferguson is editor-in-chief of WQP. Ferguson can be reached at [email protected] or 847.391.1007.
Sep 22, 2016

Renewed Concerns Over Chromium-6

tap water contamination hexavalent chromium 6

This week, it's been hard to avoid the latest water quality news - from mainstream media outlets to my Facebook feed, everyone is talking about the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) latest report on chromium-6 in U.S. tap water.

In the report, released on Sept. 20, EWG revealed its analysis of federal data on chromium-6, which found that the contaminant was present in the water supplies of more than 200 million people in all 50 states. The group also released an interactive map that allows users to click on their county to see which systems tested positive for chromium-6, and at what levels. 

The report digs into the regulations - or lack thereof - for chromium-6 around the country. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently regulates total chromium, which includes chromium-3 and chromium-6, with a limit of 100 ppb. The agency included chromium-6 in the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 3 (UCMR3), which requires water systems to test for certain contaminants that do not currently have health-based standards set under the Safe Drinking Water Act (EWG utilized this testing data in its analysis). California, ever the pioneer when it comes to water standards and regulations, set a maximum contaminant level of 10 ppb for chromium-6 in 2014 - despite a 2011 public health goal of 0.02 ppb recommended by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. 

EWG's report throws a lot of information at consumers - enough to potentially overwhelm them. I certainly have a few bones to pick with EWG - it relies heavily on the scare tactic of name-dropping Erin Brockovich, and uses phrases like "that's troubling," which (in my opinion) belong in an op/ed piece, not an article under the Research section of its website. I do love an interactive map, and found it really interesting to explore the testing data around the country. (Hint, hint EPA - do this with your data! The UCMR3 data are all available on the EPA website, but can only be downloaded as a zip file containing .txt documents.) 

I think the best thing consumers can do is follow the Water Quality Assn.'s advice: Get your water tested by a water treatment professional or a certified lab. It is the only way to know for sure if the water flowing out of their taps is in fact contaminated with chromium-6, or any other contaminant.

What is your take on EWG's report? Do you believe EPA should be doing more to regulate chromium-6? What has your customers' response been to this report? Let us know in the comments, or email us at [email protected].

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