Council OKs next Chromium 6 phase

Councilman Ara Najarian tried to put the brakes on funding Tuesday for research into a water contaminant impacting Glendale groundwater, but the majority of the council voted to approve spending another roughly $600,000 on a project that has cost more than $9 million over more than a decade.

Najarian said he voted against the funding because he felt the two types of removal methods analyzed thus far have been ineffective. Najarian was also upset that city officials rebuffed a new filtration method invented by a professor from Yerevan University in Armenia, whom he introduced to city staff.

“I want them to come up with a better system and make sure the millions of dollars that are being put into this are effective,” Najarian said at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

But his charge fell flat as council members pushed the funding approval forward.

The San Fernando Valley has been plagued by a plume of Chromium 6, the cancer-causing contaminant featured in the 2000 film “Erin Brokovich.” It was left behind by the area’s former aerospace industry, now long gone.

Glendale has been leading research efforts funded by state, water groups and former polluters for more than a decade. Najarian’s call to stop the funding in order to redirect the research into new methods comes as the state Department of Public Health plans to host a public meeting in Los Angeles today about a new draft maximum contaminant limit for Chromium 6.

State officials announced a draft limit for Chromium 6 in August of 10 parts per billion, nearly two years after setting a public health goal of 0.02 parts per billion, which started the process.

“It’s finally become less of a tangent and more of a real issue,” City Manager Scott Ochoa said.

The current statewide limit is 50 parts per billion for total chromium, which includes both Chromium 6 and a nutrient, Chromium 3.

In addition to exceeding the public health goal, the draft limit is also twice as high as Glendale’s self-regulated limit of 5 parts per billion. The state must set a bar as close to the public health goal as economically feasible, according to California law.

Glendale blends clean water purchased from outside the city and uses removal methods to cap its chromium 6 level at 5 parts per billion. The city plans to continue its own cap despite the higher draft limit, officials said.

Glendale researchers have said it would be impossible to get the limit of chromium 6 below 1 part per billion with the technology they tested, which includes resins and microfiltration. Even getting it below 5 parts per billion would cost tens of millions of dollars, according to a report sent this year to the state Department of Public Health.

Ochoa said city officials could not allow the Yerevan professor to use their stores of contaminated water to test his technology, which allegedly cleans tainted water using magnets, nor could they get the state Environmental Protection Agency to work with him.

Ochoa suggested the professor find contaminated water elsewhere to demonstrate his technology.

The expenditures approved by the council are set to pay for research into lowering the cost of filtration, comparing filtration and resin costs, project management through next year, and developing site layout plans for the various kinds of removal methods.

The cost will be reimbursed by other agencies, according to a city report,

The public health meeting on the draft limit is set for 9 a.m. to noon today at the Metropolitan Water District, 700 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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