Advancements are Made in Fight Against Chromium 6

Jamie Gadette
El Vaquero Staff Writer

On Nov. 8, efforts on the part of Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Barbara Boxer resulted in the $750,000 appropriation in federal funding to Glendale as part of an effort to improve the quality of the city’s water supply. The money will go toward the research and development of technologies that will effectively screen for contaminants, specifically the suspected carcinogen chromium 6.

“I am very pleased that the House and Senate have approved these vital funds to help bring clean, healthy drinking water to the people of Glendale,” said Boxer. “Chromium 6 is a harmful chemical that can result in illness, birth defects and even death. I want to thank the City of Glendale for taking a pivotal leadership role in the effort to rid our nation’s drinking water of this harmful toxin.”

Although preliminary results have failed to procure any solid proof linking the ingestion of chromium 6 with cancer in humans, the chemical has been established as a carcinogen in laboratory animals. Highly publicized cases, such as the one involving Erin Brockovich, have aroused concern over the presence of chromium 6 in California’s drinking water.

However, Glendale’s water supply problems, which began over a decade ago, did not originate over concerns with chromium 6. It all started in 1980 after additional testing for volatile compounds from industrial solvents yielded enough negative results to garner a complete shutdown of wells across Glendale. In the past, the city had relied heavily upon groundwater as a large portion of its drinking water. However, the newly dormant wells forced city officials to turn to alternative sources in Colorado and Northern California.
In 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stepped in to aid Glendale in its struggle to raise the quality of its water to national standards. The intervention resulted in the creation of a new set of laws that led to the construction of a Superfund Treatment Plant.

According to Don Froelich, Glendale’s Water Services Administrator, who was involved in preliminary discussions on the issue, funding for the plant came from 40 industries harnessed with the blame for releasing potentially harmful contaminants into the water.

“The industries also helped pay for eight new wells that would meet 23 percent of the city’s drinking water supply needs,” said Froelich. “That means that the city would have to rely less upon outside sources and therefore we could cut down on import costs.”

Unfortunately, the new treatment plant, although successful in removing industrial solvents, failed to screen for heavy metals such as iron and chromium 6.

“The amount of chromium 6 that came out of the plant was way below standard,” said Froelich. “It’s a huge problem because currently there are no technologies available to detect the chemical at trace levels, making it impossible to completely eradicate it from the system.”

This past summer, a joint study among the cities of Glendale, Burbank, Los Angeles and San Fernando, funded partially by the American Water Research Foundation, attempted to develop better methods of screening. According to Froelich, $200,000 of the $400,000 used in the study came from each city’s own pocket.

The recently appropriated $750,000 will help further current studies as well as provide for the advancement of additional research.

Paul Hubler, a spokesman for Schiff, predicted that the bill, which still awaits President Bush’s approval, should have no problem being passed into law. In fact, plans concerning the funding have already been put into effect.

“We will be holding a public meeting in January to bring top research scientists together with Glendale experts to discuss the possible technologies that might be developed along with a number of other issues,” said Hubler.

“We’re still seeking a location, however, but we’ll let the city know as soon as details are determined.”