Schiff turns up the heat on EPA to release chromium 6 report

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) on Tuesday introduced legislation that would set a deadline for establishing a new federal cap on chromium 6 contamination in drinking water.

The move comes two weeks after the congressman called on the Environmental Protection Agency to release a long-awaited final report on the health impact of water tainted with chromium 6 on humans. Those findings — which would be key for setting new maximum contamination levels — were postponed so the agency could also finish studying the effects of inhaling hexavalent chromium, and then release both reports at the same time.

The EPA has defended its decision by citing a peer review panel's recommendation urging more time for the inhalation study.

But the slow progress in setting new drinking water standards has drawn the ire of elected representatives from the Glendale City Council to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who called it “pathetic bureaucratic inertia.”

Schiff's district, which includes Glendale, Burbank and portions of Los Angeles, has long been afflicted with chromium 6-tainted groundwater left by an aerospace manufacturing industry that long ago departed the region.

In a statement Tuesday, Schiff said it was time “to light a fire under the federal and state government to finally take action on chromium 6.”

If the Protecting Pregnant Women and Children from Hexavalent Chromium Act is approved, the EPA would have 90 days to set a health advisory for the contaminant that would protect infants, children and pregnant women. It would also require the EPA to set a federal drinking water standard within 12 months.

Schiff cited a report by the National Institutes of Health that established “many years ago that chromium 6 was hazardous, harmful and carcinogenic.”

“And yet, the problem has still to be addressed,” he said.

Glendale Water & Power has been testing high-tech methods for stripping chromium 6 from water. The results of GWP's multimillion-dollar study — funded mostly by the EPA and contaminators — will help public health officials in determining how low the new drinking water standard will be set.

Peter Kavounas, assistant general manager of water operations for the Glendale utility, called Schiff “instrumental” in getting the EPA to provide initial funding for what has evolved into an $8-million effort.

In an email Tuesday, he added that the city “supports scientifically based health standards and understands the congressman's desire to move forward with legislation.”

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

In Glendale, potable water is blended with untainted imports to put it well below the state contamination limit.

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