‘Erin brockovich’ toxin found in tap water news fauquier.com gas density calculator

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It says water supplies serving 218 million Americans contain levels of the toxic heavy metal that are lower than the national regulatory limit – which advocates say is too lax — but higher than the California goal, a level state scientists say poses virtually no risk for developing cancer over a lifetime of consumption.

Tests of public water utilities serving Prince William, Fairfax, Loudoun, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Culpeper counties, as well as Manassas Park and the Town of Warrenton, showed average levels of hexavalent chromium ranging from .035 to .41 ppb.

Why so high in Warrenton? Most of the town’s drinking water comes from the Warrenton and Airlie reservoirs. But the town is also served by two wells, one of which, “well 6,” posted chromium-6 readings of 1.0 ppb in May 2014 and 1.2 ppb in November 2014. The higher reading is 60 times the California goal but still far below the legal limit in Virginia and most of the U.S. for total chromium, which has been set at 100 ppb since 1991.

"While we don’t believe the levels of this agent should cause alarm in Warrenton, we do want you to know that we are aware of their presence in our water in trace amounts, and we are watching all contaminants, regulated or unregulated, and are prepared to take action if any of them reach levels that ‘good science’ considers to be unsafe for drinking," he said.

Drew Hammond, acting director of drinking water for the Virginia Department of Health, said its likely some of the chromium-6 detected in Virginia public water systems is the result of naturally occurring chromium-3 transforming into its more dangerous counterpart, chromium 6, which is common under certain environmental conditions.

“While we don’t believe the levels of this agent should cause alarm in Warrenton, we do want you to know that we are aware of their presence in our water in trace amounts, and we are watching all contaminants, regulated or unregulated, and are prepared to take action if any of them reach levels that ‘good science’ considers to be unsafe for drinking,” Godfrey’s statement said.

That was the true story behind the 2000 film in which Julia Roberts starred as the flamboyant legal assistant who combed public drinking-water records to uncover the connection between groundwater contaminated by PG&E and cancer cases in Hinkley, California. Roberts won an Academy Award for best actress for the role.

PG&E used chromium-6 as an anti-corrosive in a cooling tower at their power plant. Hexavalent chromium is also found in chromate pigments in dyes, paints, inks, and plastics and is associated with leather-tanning, chrome-plating and welding processes.

In 2010, scientists at the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment concluded that the ingestion of tiny amounts of chromium-6 can cause cancer, a conclusion that has since been affirmed by state scientists in New Jersey and North Carolina, the EWG report said.

As a result, environmental advocates pushed California elected officials to enact a state regulatory standard closer to the .02 ppb public health goal. But after water utilities balked at the cost of adding treatment processes to achieve that limit, California lawmakers in 2014 set the legal limit at 10 ppb, 500 times their public health goal.

Hammond said Virginia officials are “certainly aware” of the ongoing debate in California and are reviewing all Virginia testing data collected in the EPA’s most recent round of unregulated contaminant testing, known as the “Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 3.”

The EPA testing only applies to public water utilities serving at least 10,000 people, which is why only the Town of Warrenton’s water was tested in Fauquier County. The Fauquier Water and Sanitation Authority also supplies public water through a network of 45 wells, but does not serve enough people to be included in the EPA tests.

The chemicals are associated with a type of fire-fighting foam used until the 1980s. The U.S. Navy recently shut down its water service at the Tidewater-area Fentress Naval Auxiliary Landing Field after the tests revealed high levels of the compounds in a groundwater well, Hammond said.

Meanwhile, the Fairfax County Water Authority, which treats water for more than 1 million people in Prince William, Fairfax and Manassas, is conducting research, along with other water utilities, to develop and pilot new “ion-exchange processes” to target chromium-6 removal with the goal of reducing the contaminant to the California legal limit of 10 ppb, according to an emailed statement from spokeswoman Susan Miller.