EPA Announces Action in Response to Chromium Found in Drinking Water

EPA Announces Action in Response to Drinking Water Study

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency responded to the results of a study by the Environmental Working Group that showed chromium-6 was detected in selected drinking water supplies across the country. A total of 35 locations were tested. Pittsburgh and Villanova were amoung 31 that tested positive for chromium-6. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson met with 10 U.S. Senators, incuding Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, to brief them on the issue. The following is her statement regarding that meeting:

“Yesterday, I briefed members of the Senate on chromium-6 in drinking water supplies as it relates to the recent Environmental Working Group report. EPA has already been working to review and incorporate the ground-breaking science referenced in this report. However, as a mother and the head of EPA, I am still concerned about the prevalence of chromium-6 in our drinking water.

Today, I am announcing a series of actions that the EPA will take over the coming days to address chromium-6 in our drinking water. It is clear that the first step is to understand the prevalence of this problem. While the EWG study was informative, it only provided a snapshot in time. EPA will work with local and state officials to get a better picture of exactly how widespread this problem is. In the meantime, EPA will issue guidance to all water systems in the country to help them develop monitoring and sampling programs specifically for chromium-6. We will also offer significant technical assistance to the communities cited in the EWG report with the highest levels of chromium-6 to help ensure they quickly develop an effective chromium-6 specific monitoring program.

The science behind chromium-6 is evolving. EPA is already on a path toward identifying and addressing any potential health threats from excessive, long-term exposure with its new draft assessment released this past fall. This assessment still needs to be reviewed by independent scientists as an essential step toward tightening drinking water standards for chromium-6. Strong science and the law will continue to be the backbone of our decision-making at EPA. EPA takes this matter seriously and we will continue to do all that we can, using good science and the law, to protect people’s health and our environment.”

Meeting Readout:

In yesterday’s meeting with the 10 U.S. senators, Administrator Jackson described EPA’s current chromium-6 risk assessment, which is a review EPA immediately started in response to new science in 2008 showing a link between chromium-6 ingestion and cancer. This risk assessment – which would be the first step to updating the drinking water regulations – will be finalized after an independent scientific peer review in 2011. Administrator Jackson told the senators that based on the draft risk assessment, EPA will likely revise drinking water regulations to account for this new science. These revisions would only take place after an independent science panel has verified the underlying science.

Administrator Jackson told the senators that EPA currently requires testing for total chromium which includes chromium-6. She noted that the testing does not distinguish what percentage of the total chromium is chromium-6 versus chromium-3, so EPA’s regulation assumes that the sample is 100 percent chromium-6. This means the current chromium-6 standard has been as protective and precautionary as the science of that time allowed.

Administrator Jackson told the senators that according to the most recent data, all public water facilities are in compliance with the existing total chromium standards, but she agrees that chromium-6 is a contaminant of concern. She also told the senators that people can have their water tested and install home treatment devices certified to remove chromium-6 if they are concerned about the levels of chromium-6 in their drinking water.

The administrator concluded the briefing by making the following points and commitments:

1) While provocative, the EWG report is a self-described “snapshot” in time and does not provide a full, long-term picture of the prevalence of chromium-6 in our drinking water. EPA will work with state and local officials to better determine how wide-spread and prevalent this contaminant is.

2) Meanwhile, EPA will issue guidance to all water systems on how to test for and sample drinking water specifically for chromium-6. This guidance will provide EPA-approved methods and other technical information.

3) EPA will also offer technical expertise and assistance to the communities cited in the EWG study with the highest levels of chromium. This assistance will include providing technical experts to work with water system operators and engineers to ensure the latest testing and monitoring is being utilized.

4) Once EPA’s chromium-6 risk assessment is finalized, EPA will work quickly to determine if new standards need to be set. Based on the current draft assessment, which has yet to undergo scientific peer review, it is likely that EPA will tighten drinking water standards to address the health risks posed by chromium-6.

More information on chromium:

To track the status of the ongoing risk assessment:

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