Schiff pushes EPA to release information on chromium 6 contamination

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) increased pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday to issue a long-awaited final report on the health impact of water tainted with chromium 6 on humans, calling the slow progress “unconscionable.”

In his letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the congressman whose district has a long-running problem with chromium 6 contamination of underground water said the agency “must stop wasting time and release their final analysis of chromium 6 in drinking water.”

“Any further delay is unconscionable,” he said.

A final report is one of the last steps before federal officials can set a new cap on chromium 6 contamination. State and federal officials are working on setting new maximum contaminant levels.

But the EPA has decided to delay issuing a final report on drinking water contamination so it can coincide with the results of a study on the impacts of inhaling hexavalent chromium, due near the end of 2014.

That, Schiff said, puts the final report three years behind schedule at a time when cities throughout the San Fernando Valley have been grappling for years with chromium 6 contamination caused by a long-gone aerospace manufacturing industry.

“In making the release of the final ingestion assessment contingent on the final inhalation assessment it ensures that local water agencies in the interim will not be required to take steps to most effectively protect millions of Americans from this carcinogenic compound,” Schiff said in his letter.

Last week, Schiff slammed the California Department of Public Health for “dragging its feet” on setting a new limit for chromium 6, popularized by the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich.”

That came after Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich likened the slow pace to “pathetic bureaucratic inertia” and Glendale City Council members also pushed for a quicker pace.

The EPA has already determined that breathing in chromium 6 can cause cancer, but its final inhalation study is not complete. A National Institutes of Health study found that high doses of the contaminant in drinking water causes cancer in lab rodents, but the EPA is conducting its own research.

Last month, the EPA announced it planned to combine inhalation and ingestion research into one study to be released in 2014. The inhalation study was originally scheduled for 2011.

But according to a statement issued by the EPA on Wednesday, an external peer review panel in May urged more time for research before coming out with the final report on inhalation impacts. With that recommendation in mind, the EPA decided to lump its two studies together, the agency said.

California public health officials recommend water should have less than .02 parts per billion of chromium 6 in groundwater, but they don’t plan to release a new enforceable limit until 2015. Chromium in California is currently capped at 50 parts per billion. The federal limit is twice that.

Glendale water is at 5 parts per billion in part due to blending groundwater with imports from the Southern California Metropolitan Water District. Glendale has also been testing ways to strip the contaminant from groundwater for almost a decade, but researchers have yet to get levels below 1 part per billion.

State officials plan to review Glendale’s research prior to setting a new chromium cap.

But delaying the water study for the inhalation-effect results could impact local regulations, Schiff said in his letter.

“I am deeply disappointed by the EPA’s decision to effectively restart the assessment process at the very time it was to have concluded,” he said.

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World