Safer drinking water

Brockovich case still making waves

The California Environmental Protection Agency has set the nation’s first public-health standard for hexavalent chromium—a carcinogen that contaminates groundwater—levels in drinking water, according to the EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA).

The OEHHA set the standard at .02 parts per billion, and based that on avoidance of potential carcinogenic effects. Hexavalent chromium, which exists in several forms, is used in paints, dyes, inks, plastics and anticorrosive agents.

The first draft of the proposed standards was released six months after the National Toxicology Program confirmed in 2009 that drinking water contaminated with hexavalent-chromium can cause cancer.

Concerns over hexavalent-chromium levels hit the national spotlight in 1993 when Erin Brockovich (pictured), a legal clerk, helped bring a case against PG&E for contaminating groundwater in Hinkley, Calif.