EPA Releases Plan to Deal with Chromium-6 in U.S. Drinking Water

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The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a comprehensive plan to help local water utilities address the problem of chromium-6 (hexavalent chromium). This plan comes just two days after the release of Environmental Working Group's (EWG) analysis which found chromium-6 contamination widespread in the U.S. drinking water supply.

The plan comes after EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson Tuesday meeting with Senators Richard Durbin (IL), Mark Kirk (IL), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Bob Casey (PA), Ben Nelson (NE), Bill Nelson (FL), Daniel Akaka (HI), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Jeff Bingaman (NM), and Jeff Merkley (OR) to brief them on the issue of chromium-6 in drinking water.

In announcing the actions the EPA will be taking, Jackson noted, “While the EWG study was informative, it only provided a snapshot in time.”

The EPA will begin by working with local and state officials to get a better picture of exactly how widespread this problem is. An independent scientific peer review will be done in 2011 which will most likely led to an update in the drinking water regulations.

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The EPA currently requires testing for total chromium which includes chromium-6. This testing does not distinguish which percentage of the total chromium is chromium-6 versus chromium-3, so EPA’s regulation assumes that the sample is 100% chromium-6.

Meanwhile, EPA will issue guidance to all water systems on how to test for and sample drinking water specifically for chromium-6. This guidance will provide EPA-approved methods and other technical information.

EPA will also offer technical expertise and assistance to the communities cited in the EWG study with the highest levels of chromium. This assistance will include providing technical experts to work with water system operators and engineers to ensure the latest testing and monitoring is being utilized.

In response to the EPA’s update Ken Cook, president and co-founder of EWG, stated "We commend Administrator Jackson and the Obama administration for taking these important steps and look forward to working with them and the affected water utilities to address the concerns of the public. Water is an essential staple of life and should be free of industrial pollutants that may have profound and irreversible effects on people's health."

Sources
Environmental Working Group
Environmental Protection Agency

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