After receiving 18,000 comments, the California Department of Public Health on Tuesday recommended setting the maximum limit for a water contaminant known as chromium 6 at 10 parts per billion, bringing the new cap on the pollutant that has plagued Glendale water for decades one step closer to finalization.
The recommendation is expected to be approved within 30 days by an administrative arm of the state government, known as the Office of Administrative Law, according to a statement released by the public health department. Once that occurs, the proposed limit will take effect in July.
The final recommendation solidifies a draft proposal released in August 2013.
Glendale won’t be impacted by the recommended cap on the cancer-causing contaminant because the city’s utility currently limits chromium 6 levels to 5 parts per billion by cleaning polluted water and blending it with expensive, but clean, imported water.
One part per billion is often compared to a drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, so setting the limit at 10 parts per billion would be equivalent to 10 drops of chromium 6 in a 130,000-gallon pool.
Chromium 6 in groundwater in Glendale and other San Fernando Valley cities is a dark legacy of the long-gone aerospace manufacturing industry. The impurity was featured in the Oscar-winning film “Erin Brokovich.”
State health department officials used more than a decade of Glendale research to determine its recommended limit of chromium 6. Currently, the state only limits total chromium, which is a combination of the contaminant and a nutrient called chromium 3, to 50 parts per billion. The federal total chromium limit is 100 parts per billion.
Glendale has spent about $11 million, most of it from public and industry grants, on research into chromium 6 removal methods.
Health department officials had to set the maximum contaminant limit as close to a 2011 public health goal of .02 parts per billion as economically feasible. They have estimated that reducing the limit to 10 parts per billion will cost water agencies statewide $156 million in total.
“The drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium of 10 parts per billion will protect public health while taking into consideration economic and technical feasibility as required by law,” Dr. Ron Chapman, the department of public health’s director, said in a statement.
The department received the 18,000 comments on its draft maximum contaminant limit from individuals, public utilities, environmental activists and others who both supported and opposed the recommendation over about three months.