Chicago to Test for Toxic Metal in Our Water

January 15, 2011

Chicagoland Real Estate Forum recently reported about the presence of hexavalent chromium in the Chicago area’s water supply.

We are now relieved to report that city officials will begin testing for the cancer-causing metal in the tap water that is used by more than 7 million residents in Chicago and its suburbs.

The substance, also known as chromium-6, was made famous by the movie “Erin Brockovich.” Of course, that movie was based on a true story in which residents of a town were literally poisoned by chromium-6 in their water.

While chromium-6 (hexavalent) is toxic and causes stomach cancer, chromium-3 (trivalent) is an essential nutrient. Up until now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has only tested for a total chromium count.

City officials announced the testing after the EPA released a statement offering new guidelines on how the nation’s public water systems should monitor their supplies.

“Given the emerging public health information, EPA is providing this guidance to all public water systems to see how a system could enhance chromium monitoring through additional sampling and analysis specifically for chromium-6,” wrote Peter S. Silva, EPA Assistant Administrator.

On a side note: Silva, the top water quality official at the EPA, just announced that he will be leaving the agency next month. Really hope he’s not getting out before the real storm.

Anyway, last month, an independent laboratory hired by the Environmental Working Group found chromium-6 in the tap water of 31 out of 35 cities sampled.

Our town was one of them.

Health officials in California recently lowered the safe chromium-6 level from 0.06 parts per billion to 0.02 ppb.

The amount found in Lake Michigan was 0.18 parts per billion, nine times higher than the new safe level. Not good.

Good to hear that city officials are stepping up, though.

Stay tuned for more updates. In the meantime, visit water.epa.gov for more information on the EPA’s advice.

Then go buy some bottled water.


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