California has set the nation’s first drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium (chromium-6).
The standard set by the California Department of Public Health is 10 parts per billion (ppb). Previously, the standard of 50 parts per billion was for total chromium, which includes both the benign chromium-3 as well as chromium-6. The new standard was proposed in 2013.
For several years, PG&E has been providing bottled water to residents of Hinkley as the company works to remediate groundwater that was contaminated by chromium-6 in the 1950s and 1960s where it was used at a natural gas compressor station.
PG&E has been supportive as the state of California worked to develop a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) standard for chromium-6, company spokesman Jeff Smith said.
“This is a significant development,” he said. “The community of Hinkley has lived with uncertainty regarding what level of chromium-6 is considered safe by the state for many years. The new state standard will hopefully provide an increased level of clarity for not only Hinkley, but also other communities in the state as discussion continues around these water issues.”
As a result of the new standard, PG&E will be re-evaluating its bottled water program, he said.
The new standard will not affect PG&E’s cleanup efforts. Under the authority of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, PG&E is cleaning up groundwater beneath Hinkley to naturally occurring levels of chromium-6 found in the water before the compressor station opened.
“We remain committed to cleaning up the impact of our past actions in Hinkley,” Smith said.
The Los Angeles Times wrote about the new standard.
Click here to read previous Currents stories on PG&E’s efforts to support the Hinkley community.