More funding to remove cancerous agent from Glendale water

Glendale Water & Power plans to spend another $550,000 on a research project for stripping cancer-causing chromium VI from local groundwater, a process that already has cost $7.8 million. City officials say they need to make the expenditure because the current removal method has some drawbacks and the state may tighten restrictions.

The new funding comes from a coalition of stakeholders as California officials consider tightening restrictions on how much of the toxic element — already at 50 parts per billion — is allowed in potable water.

The outcome of the research could have far-reaching consequences, especially for the San Fernando industrial corridor and cities such as Burbank, which have been grappling with underground water contamination left behind decades ago by aerospace manufacturing.

Most of the money spent over the last nine years studying chromium VI removal has come from grants and payments from polluters, said Peter Kavounas, assistant general manager at Glendale Water & Power, the lead agency on the project. The latest round of funding, approved by the Glendale City Council on Tuesday, comes from a state grant, the Denver-based Water Research Foundation and California Water Service Co., a San Jose-based utility.

Securing steady funding for the research hasn’t been easy. Last year, Glendale Water & Power officials threatened to pull the plug on the project if $2.5 million in grant funding didn’t come through.


“We’ve gotten that logjam un-jammed,” Kavounas said, adding that officials are ready to start testing new resins that could be more effective at stripping the chromium VI, or hexavalent chromium, from underground water.

The current resin works, he said, but it leaks formaldehyde and must be run through a process to strip out that compound. In addition, it accumulates uranium. Once the resin accumulates as much chromium VI as it can, it usually is dumped at a disposal site, which officials don’t want to clog with uranium.

“We need a resin that’s not going to be that expensive, that finicky to handle,” Kavounas said.

State officials will look to Glendale’s research as the state sets a cap on chromium in drinking water in coming years.

In part due to dilution with imported water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Glendale’s water contains a far lower concentration of chromium VI — about 5 parts per billion — than the current 50 parts per billion set by the state..

If the state changes its chromium VI tolerance levels, Kavounas said, the city may need to treat more water, he said.