Environmental News: Media Center

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California Department of Public Health Fails to Set Safe Drinking Water Standard for Hexavalent Chromium
Public Health and Not “Economics” Should be Primary Driver for Setting Standard

SAN FRANCISCO (August 22, 2013) – The California Department of Public Health today announced a proposal to set hexavalent chromium’s “Maximum Contaminant Level” – the maximum concentration of a chemical that is allowed in public drinking water systems – at 10 parts per billion. This level is 500 times higher than the level identified as safe by the California Environmental Protection Agency.

The department’s announcement comes after a California Superior Court ordered the agency to propose a drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium by the end of August, as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group against the department for failing to protect millions of Californians from this dangerous toxin.

Avinash Kar, attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Public Health Program, made the following statement:

“When you’re dealing with drinking water, safety and public health should come first. The department’s own data suggests that the proposed standard covers less than 15 percent of water sources contaminated with hexavalent chromium at unsafe levels. The proposed standard is 500 times higher than the safe levels established by the state. That’s an enormous departure and needs to change.”


The CalEPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment announced a final Public Health Goal for hexavalent chromium in drinking water in July 2011, a preliminary step for the Department of Public Health to adopt a drinking water standard. California law requires that a Public Health Goal be established before a MCL may be set – and that the MCL should be set as close as possible to that goal. The goal was set at 0.02 parts per billion, a level that does not pose a significant health risk to people.

Hexavalent chromium, made famous in the film Erin Brockovich, is a dangerous carcinogen that contaminates drinking water in over 500 California communities.

See press release on Court’s ruling requiring California to establish drinking water standard for dangerous carcinogen: http://www.nrdc.org/media/2013/130718b.asp

See press release on NRDC and Environmental Working Group lawsuit to protect millions of Californians from contaminated drinking water: http://www.nrdc.org/media/2013/130718b.asp

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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