$550K dedicated to removing cancer agent from groundwater

Glendale Water & Power plans to spend another $550,000 on a research project for stripping cancer-causing chromium 6 from local groundwater 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 additional 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 like Burbank, which have been grappling with underground water contamination left behind decades ago by the aerospace manufacturing industry.

Most of the money spent over the past nine years studying chromium 6 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 hexavalent chromium from underground water.

The current resin works, he said, but there have been two difficulties associated with it. The resin leaks formaldehyde and it must be run through a process to cut that out. In addition, it accumulates uranium. Once the resin accumulates as much chromium 6 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 be looking to Glendale’s new research as the state sets an individual cap on chromium in drinking water in coming years.

At five parts per billion, the level of chromium 6 in drinking water in Glendale is far below the current maximum of 50 parts per billion set by the state thanks to imports from Metropolitan Water District of Southern California..

Although Glendale is far below the current limit, what state officials will do in the future remains unknown, Kavounas said. New restrictions may force Glendale to expand its water testing facilities in order to treat more water, he said.

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