Carcinogen Levels In Riverside Water Among Tops In US

'Erin Brockovich chemical' found in 31 cities

RIVERSIDE (CBS) — Researchers say tap water in Riverside has some of the highest levels in the nation of a known deadly toxin.

A new study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found hexavalent chromium — a carcinogen known as the “Erin Brockovich chemical” — in tap water from 31 out of 35 U.S. cities, with Riverside ranking as the third most-contaminated water supply, along with San Jose rounding out the top five.

The cities of Norman, Oklahoma, and Honolulu, Hawaii were ranked in the top two slots.

Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies hexavalent chromium (or chromium-6) as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” when consumed in drinking water, the agency has yet to establish federal guidelines for consumers, and does not require utilities to test for it.

In fact, California state standards currently exceed that of the EPA: the federal legal limit for “total chromium” — water polluted with hexavalent and other forms of the metal — is 1,700 times higher than California’s proposed limit, a disparity that may signal a larger-than-reported cancer risk for communities drinking chromium-tainted tap water.

The plight of communities affected by tainted water supplies was perhaps best illustrated in the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich” starring Julie Roberts, which was based on the story of cancer-stricken residents of Hinkley, Calif., who in 1996 won a $333 million settlement from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for contaminating their tap water with hexavalent chromium.

EWG says a 2009 study of 48,000 communities in 48 states shows as many as 74 million people in nearly 7,000 communities across the U.S. drink tap water polluted with “total chromium.”

For the complete report, visit the EWG website.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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