Putting Health and Safety First
By Sophie James
Chief Water Quality Officer
Last week, California state officials announced a long-awaited standard for chromium-6, also known as hexavalent chromium, the contaminant made famous by Erin Brockovich. The contaminant, which occurs naturally in many water sources, has been found in thousands of California’s drinking water wells, and detected in all but seven counties in the state.
Cal Water welcomes this draft standard, set at 10 parts per billion.
Every day, about two million people rely on us to deliver water that’s safe for everyday and emergency needs – a responsibility we take very seriously. That’s why we have been treating for chromium-6 for years, so our customers don’t have to think twice when turning on the tap.
Protecting our customers’ health and safety is our highest priority, and we have always been committed to meeting or surpassing all water quality regulations set by public health experts. When the first maximum contaminant level (MCL) for chromium-6 was rescinded, we continued to treat our water to meet the public health standard.
In fact, not only were we one of the only water suppliers in the state that began treating water supplies for chromium-6 when the safe drinking water standard was set in 2014, we were one of the first water utilities in America to use advanced treatment technology for this specific contaminant. This technology has since become a model for other cities and utilities in their treatment of chromium-6.
Customers remained our top focus throughout the process. To minimize the rate impact in two of our districts, Willows and Dixon, we applied for, and received, a grant and subsidy to benefit customers. Working with and for our customers in our communities is central to how we operate.
Beyond protecting our customers’ health and safety, our environmental stewardship remains a key priority, from the beginning to end of the treatment process. Cal Water sends the chromium removed to be recycled for use in other industries, allowing the creation of new products like stainless steel and leather goods.
Chromium-6 is just one of the more than 300 contaminants for which we rigorously test, and we will continue to prioritize the health and safety of those two million people who rely on us every day.