Channel 3, Sacramento California

Utilities To Monitor Chemical In Water
Natural Occurring Chemical Linked To Cancer

SACRAMENTO, Updated 4:42 p.m. PST January 4, 2001 -- State health officials have drafted emergency regulations that require public utilities to monitor drinking water for chromium 6, a naturally occurring chemical that is linked to cancer.

Recent state sampling of several city wells showed that chromium 6 was present at higher levels than previously thought.

David Spath, head of drinking water standards for the Department of Health Services, said that sampling made it clear that the state needed to find out how widespread chromium 6 is in the rest of the state.

Though chromium contamination in Southern California has been the focus of lawmakers recently, the city of Davis, Calif. has several of the state's most contaminated wells, according to state water quality monitoring records.

The levels in Davis have sometimes reached the state health limit, but have not exceeded it. The source of the Davis contamination is believed to be natural. As chromium 3, the chemical is an essential nutrient in meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. As chromium 6, it has been proven to cause cancer when inhaled. There is still some debate whether it is carcinogenic in water.

California's proposed standards on chromium 6 are 40 times more stringent than the federal Environmental Protection Agency limit. The EPA remains unconvinced that chromium 6 is carcinogenic in water.

Concerns over chromium 6 have increased since the release of the movie "Erin Brockovich," based on the real-life account of a woman who exposed contamination in a California desert town.

Copyright 2001 by KCRA and The Associated Press