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The Buckhorn

Copyright (c) 2010
Winters Express
312 Railroad Avenue, Winters, CA 95694
(530) 795-4551
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Chromium 6 is
now a proble

Express editor
Last week, Winters residents received notices in their mailboxes from the City of Winters, notifying them that the drinking water has higher levels of Hexavalent Chromium (Chromium 6) that the State of California allows. Ironically, nothing has changed. The water has the same amount of Chromium 6 as it always has — it’s the states standards that have changed. But only in California. Elsewhere in the U.S., residents with the same levels of Chromium 6 as Winters are not getting notices about it in their mailboxes.
According to the city’s notice, on July 1, a new California Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for Chromium 6 went into effect, allowing only 10 parts per billion (ppb) of the substance in the water. Chromium occurs naturally in rocks, plants, soil, volcanic dust, humans and animals, stated the notice, and is an odorless, tasteless metallic element.
The city began quarterly monitoring for its water wells in December 2014, and the most recent water sample from June/July showed that four of the city’s five wells have chromium exceeding the new state standards, in amounts up to 15-22 ppb. That sounds like a lot until you consider that the city’s Environmental Services Manager Carol Scianna says that the old state standards were 50 ppb, and the federal standards are still 100 ppb.
Additionally, Scianna says Winters residents should get used to receiving those Chromium 6 notices — they’ll come every quarter while the city figures out how to address the issue, which isn’t as easy as it seems. Scianna says each well may require a filtration system for Chromium 6, and the bottom line for water customers is that they may see their city water bills double in order to pay for the equipment.
The estimated cost of installing filtration for Chromium 6 is between $12-20 million, says City Manger John Donlevy.
“The upgrades are substantial and will include treatment systems and the construction of large storage tanks,” says Donlevy. “It may also include the abandonment of some existing wells and the installation of separate water systems for fire/irrigation systems and domestic water.”
He adds that depending on what actions the state legislature takes the new standards may be imposed as late as 2020, however, that date may be moved forward depending upon the response to that legislative action by Governor Jerry Brown,
Scianna adds that there is current legislation that may buy small cities some time — up to five years — to come into compliance. In the meantime, there isn’t much the city or residents can do about the Chromium 6 in the water. As far as Scianna knows, there isn’t a home filtration system that will remove it.
Scianna says it was a lawsuit by an environmental group that triggered the new Chromium 6 laws, and the plaintiffs felt the new standards weren’t stiff enough. She adds that the new standards only apply to potable drinking water, which means that water for lawns or washing dishes and clothes may not have to be filtered.
According to the notice that was mailed last week, residents do not need to turn to bottled water for drinking, and those with concerns are advised to consult their doctors. Chromium 6 in excess of the MCL may pose an increased risk of cancer for some people.
Donlevy expresses frustration about the financial burden being imposed on small California cities.
“The fact that the state of California has an MCL that is 90 percent lower than the national requirement is draconian in nature. In our case, Chromium 6 is a naturally occurring element in our groundwater. The impacts of requiring a community the size of Winters to treat our water and sustain this level of capital expense is a catastrophic in nature.
“The expense to our citizens and customers will be huge. Our estimates are that the typical bill will rise by as much as $100 per month to implement this. This will affect the elderly and the poor in a very negative manner, and people will be forced to choose between water and food. The state has ignored both common sense and the economic impacts on the people of this state.
“At some point, the governor and the legislature will need to step in to show some leadership on containing the out-of-control regulations that are being imposed on residents.”
For more health risk information about Chromium 6, visit the CalEPA Office of Environmental Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) website, or call Scianna, 794-6715 or