2020 water quality report released – total chromium range stable

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The city recently published the 2020 water quality report. Each year the wells supplying Winters’ residents with drinking water are required to be tested for unhealthy levels of contaminants, minerals and chemicals to ensure that the water supply is safe.

The report revealed that in 2020 the city supplied over 370 million gallons of water – or about 137 gallons per day for each of the city’s reported 7417 residents through 2,221 water connections.

The city’s water supply falls under the Winters Public Works Department whose stated goal is to provide safe and dependable water to residents and users.

Winters’ drinking water is delivered from five wells with depths ranging from 156 to 630 feet and draws from two aquifers into a single public water system. Levels of barium, total chromium, nitrate, fluoride, chloride and sulfate were tested and determined to be within acceptable ranges. Two of the city’s five wells were tested for the current report, said Kristine DeGuerre, public works environmental services manager.

Copper and lead levels were tested by collecting samples of tap water from 22 homes within the Winters service area. Copper was found to be within an acceptable range and in the case of lead, none was detected.

The city’s water quality became a cause for concern in 2014 after the state adopted a strict Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) upper limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6.

Chromium enters the water table by erosion of natural chromium deposits in the environment and is also produced by industrial operations. Winters’ wells are tested for “total chromium.”

Chromium-3 is an odorless and tasteless metallic element with low toxicity found naturally in rocks, plants, soil, volcanic dust and animals. Health officials have advised that drinking water with excessive amounts of chromium-6 is recognized as a carcinogen and a health concern. DeGuerre said the city’s test does not distinguish between levels of chromium-6 and chromium-3.

The 2000 movie, “Erin Brockovich,” for which Julia Roberts won an Academy Award for Best Actress, chronicled the investigation and lawsuit against PG&E for chromium-6 contamination of the groundwater in Hinkley, CA.

In 2017 the State Water Board was ordered by the Superior Court of Sacramento to delete the chromium MCL standard for drinking water, citing that the board “failed to properly consider the economic feasibility of complying with the MCL.” The State Water Board replied that it would not be enforcing any compliance plans for total chromium standards below 50 ppb. The court also ordered the State Water Board to adopt a new MCL for chromium 6, which has yet to be done.

Over the past five years, the city’s total chromium range has consistently been between a low of 8 ppb and a high of 18.5 ppb. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has maintained a drinking water standard for total chromium of 100 ppb since 1991.

The full 2020 Water Quality Report is available on the city’s website under Public Works.

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