Test of L.A. tap water finds high levels of chromium

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Test of L.A. tap water finds high levels of chromium ASSOCIATED PRESS September 22, 2000

LOS ANGELES -- Preliminary results from a test of tap water at 100 county facilities has found high levels of chromium 6, a suspected carcinogen, but officials warned that more tests are needed.

The tests found chromium 6 levels ranging from trace amounts to as high as 7.5 parts per billion in several places, said Wasfy Shindy, director of the county's environmental toxicology lab. The tests were conducted at fire stations, health centers, courthouses and other county-owned facilities.

Chromium 6 has been suspected of causing cancer in several high-profile lawsuits. In a 1996 case made famous by the Julia Roberts film "Erin Brockovich," residents of the San Bernardino town of Hinkley won a $333 million settlement from Pacific Gas & Electric because the company's underground tanks leaked chromium 6 into ground water.

State officials have proposed tougher standards for chromium in an attempt to reduce chromium 6, which water agencies are not required to test for under state rules.

A newly proposed chromium standard is 2.5 ppb, but no formal chromium 6 standard has been established. The state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment believes chromium 6 levels in drinking water should be less than 0.2 ppb, said Alan Hirsch, an agency spokesman.

The county's tests were conducted at 20 sites in each of the five supervisor's districts.

"Preliminary findings indicate excessive levels of chromium 6 in some of the county"s health facilities," said Supervisor Mike Antonovich said. "Countywide the levels are higher than was anticipated."

The results, however, were preliminary and will be subject to a follow-up study that will be completed in the next 10 days, Antonovich said.

The Board of Supervisors ordered the study earlier this month after state officials claimed it would take months to order local water agencies to conduct testing.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), September 22, 2000

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