Monday, March 2, 2015

California Cities with High Levels of Hexavalent Chromium - How Does Your City Look?

Hey there fellow Californians,

I decided to make this blog post because I felt it was important for people to know that there is a good amount of Chromium 6 (Hexavalent Chromium) in many Bay Area water supplies. There are all kinds of other toxins, but this is one of the first ones I've actually had time to look up. For anyone who doesn't know (or remember) what Chromium 6 is, it's the toxin that was made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich.  

I didn't have time to look up every single city, but I tried to include a good number of large water suppliers that had levels I believe people should be aware of. Maybe this is just a coincidence, but the two people I know of, who died from Gastrointestinal and Liver Cancer, lived in areas with high levels of Chromium 6. Those two observations, on their own, may not be a big deal, but just in the last couple of months I've seen 10 other cases of people with Cancer (2 cases of lung cancer, 3 cases of bladder cancer, 2 cases of breast cancer, 2 cases of brain cancer) and Parkinson's Disease, who just so happened to have very high levels of a particular chemical that was known to cause that particular form of cancer, in their water (Trihalomethanes, Radon, Manganese and Hexavalent Chromium).  From what I could tell, none of these people seemed to believe their illnesses could have anything to do with the water supply.

Maybe this is all just coincidence, but... I feel like, at this point, I should try to warn people. You may have heard stories about how, when the Tsunami was about to hit in Indonesia, there was a guy running down the street, yelling and warning everyone to run for the hills, and people were looking at him like he was crazy? Well, to some degree, I feel like that guy. I think people might look at me like I'm making a big deal out of nothing. I'm not asking you to run for the hills. I'm just saying... please have a look at your own water report. It's easy, fast, and free to do. And then look up the chemicals that are in your water, and see what they can cause. And then make sure you're drinking filtered water! 

In particular, I thought it was pretty alarming to see how high the levels of Chromiun 6 were in Dixon, Lancaster, Los Angeles (via the LA Dept. of Water and Power), Los Banos, South San Francisco, and Pomona. Pomona had the highest level I had ever seen of any water report, by far - they were the only city I've ever seen reported over the EPA's legal limit, and the legal limit is 5,000 times higher than what the California EPA says it should be.

It's true, these levels may have changed by now. The Federal EPA has finally set the legal limit for Hexavalent Chromium at 10 parts per billion. The legal limit used to be 100 ppb.  

For anyone who doesn't think 10 parts per billion sounds like a lot (like I didn't), please consider the fact that the birth control Nuva Ring is active at 0.035 parts per billion. And PG&E was recently cited for giving residents in Hinkley (the town featured in Erin Brockovich) water that had "high levels" that were just 0.11 parts per billion. As per their agreement with the residents, the water the supplied Hinkley residents with was to have levels no greater than 0.11 ppb.

A note about this chart below, from the San Jose Mercury News: the California EPA has since revised its limit of Chromiun 6 to be 0.02 PPB (they formerly said it should be just .06 PPB, but made it even lower to protect children and people with sensitivities to chemicals).  

The Chromium level for South SF in EWG's database was reported to be between 10.14 and 33.56 parts per billion. It wasn't listed as the hexavalent type (many water facilities don't actually report the hexavalent chromium levels at all), I suspect that since South San Francisco is known as the "Industrial City," they may have more than a fair share of hexavalent chromium in their water. 

Update 4/10/15: I just found South SF's water quality report online (though the 2012 report is the latest I could find). It seems that the level has gone down but it's still way, way above California's proposed health limit of 0.02 ppb (it was as high as 17 ppb, with an average of 6.79 ppb). You can see the report here

I do appreciate that Cal Water specifically tested for Chromium 6 and revealed this level on their report.  In many cases, companies do not report "hexavalent chromium" - just the "Total Chromium." If you live in an area where this is the case, I urge you to ask your water company for their most recent tests and ask what the level of hexavalent chromium is. If they can't give it to you, see if you can get it done yourself through a local testing facility (just google "water test" and ads will pop up - or contact me and I can send you to someone who will do it pretty cheap). 

If a level of hexavalent chromium was not reported, but total chromium was reported, I highlighted the level in red if it was at a rate that was drastically above California's proposed "Safe Limit."

Dixon, CA seems to have the highest level of Chromium 6 that I've seen in Northern California (an AVERAGE of 25 parts per billion). The town of Hinkley, CA (the one that sued PG&E for $333 million) had peaks of chromium reported to be 20 parts per billion, from every source I can find, and their AVERAGE of Chromium 6 was supposedly just 1.19 (Note: I keep seeing these figures repeated and that's what is currently on Wikipedia but am doing further research to verify these numbers are accurate). The bottom line is, regardless of what the levels are, or were, in Hinkley, the fact is that the California EPA recommends we do not have more than 0.02 parts per billion in our water!

I hope the residents in the Dixon district have been warned about what they've potentially been exposed to.  (Note: later in the day I looked this up and found Dixon's report from 2009 - 2011. The average went down slightly but it was still very high). The average for those years was 19 parts per billion, with ranges from 13-24 PPB. According to their 2013 report, their levels were between 14-23 PPB, with an average of 19 PPB. I am very concerned for people who could have developed health problems due to their long term exposure of this toxin. Maybe this is just a coincidence, but I have only heard of one person who has died of liver cancer. Sadly, he passed away yesterday in Los Banos (where chromium levels were measured between 25.56 - 27.67). Liver and gastrointestinal cancer is a well known side effect of chromium exposure.  

Update 3/2: Tonight I discovered a report that looked even worse than Dixon, and I am HOPING this is some kind of a typo, because I find it hard to believe that this could really be true. POMONA, CALIFORNIA is the first town I have seen that actually peaked above the LEGAL limit for Hexavalent Chromium (they had levels of as high as 170 PPB). And the legal limit is 5,000 times above what the California EPA says it should be! You can see the report HERE.

I also found a few discrepancies in the reports  (not that I could do a better job, with all that data they have to keep track of!). But as an example, the Great Oaks Water Co. in San Jose reports the levels of hexavalent chromium are higher than the levels of TOTAL chromium (it seems the hexavalent type should be included in the TOTAL chromium)? Same thing for Madera and Lancaster, CA. So I wouldn't necessarily trust a water report to give you all the information you need. I am not sure how these readings are taken or where they are taken from. Because of these discrepancies, I still feel a little suspicious when looking at reports that list Chromium 6 as "none detected" (but they still have very high levels of "total chromium").

Also, it seems as if the two types of readings (Total Chromium vs. Hexavalent Chromium) may come from different areas, and maybe even on different days! Because a reading can vary from area to area (see the video "The Cost of Cleaning up Chromium 6" on THIS PAGE), it could make sense that there could be some major variances between the readings. If only one area is tested, you could be getting only part of the information. Or, if a median range is reported, you could be seeing a level that doesn't represent what is actually in your water! 

I also came across listings for cities that seemed to be much further away (like San Diego) when checking local reports, so, I am not sure what happened there, but I went ahead and included cities that were further away if they came up on the report, OR if they had a high rate of toxins I think people should be aware of (I just found out the LA Department of Water and Power reported their Hexavalent Chromium levels to be between 2.87 and 33.7!!! So I am adding them to the list.

Here are the cities I looked up through the Environmental Working Group's database of water reports from 2004 - 2009 (the levels may be higher or lower now). PLEASE NOTE that if you see your city listed here that does not necessarily mean it represents YOUR water supplier. There are often times several different water suppliers for one city. To find your water supply company, type your zip code in the box near the top of this page. For the most current reading, call your supplier directly, or go to their website and you should be able to find the report on their page (though I have noticed some companies are slow to update their reports and the last ones I can find are from 2012).

WHEN LOOKING AT THESE NUMBERS, PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT THE CALIFORNIA EPA'S RECOMMENDED GUIDELINES FOR HEXAVALENT CHROMIUM IS JUST 0.02 PARTS PER BILLION, to ensure our water is safe, but the LEGAL LIMIT has been set to 10 parts per billion (we are supposed to be happy about this... it USED to be 100 PPB).

CITY (Click on the town name to see the report)CHROMIUM (TOTAL) CHROMIUM (HEXAVALENT)
ALAMEDA (COUNTY).32 - 3.49.41 - 1.53
ALHAMBRANot listed5.2 - 5.7
ANTIOCHNot detectedNone detected
ATHERTON (Bear Gulch Reservoir).74 - 3.27Not listed
ATWATER0.2 - 1.0Not listed
BAKERSFIELD 1.56 - 7.811.15 - 1.9 PPB
BOLINAS (no chromium but HIGH levels of trihalomethanes)Not listedNot listed
BRENTWOOD7.34 - 10.05.15 - 5.3
BURBANK2.01 - 7.52.76 - 5.9
CHOWCHILLA1.84 - 3.31.9 - 1.9
CITY OF BAKERSFIELD1.33 - 7.63.85 - 2.4
CONTRA COSTANot detectedNone detected
CUPERTINO3.12 - 8.52Not listed
DELANONot detected3.8 - 3.8
DIABLONot detected1.55 - 1.6
DISCOVERY BAY0.13 - 0.5Not listed
DIXON28.35 - 44.5225.0 - 25.0
DOWNEY0.08 - 1.5Not listed
ESCALON2.27 - 7.0Not listed
FONTANA1.43 - 4.752.68 - 3.4
GILROYNot detectedNone detected
GLENDALE5.27 - 21.08.13 - 12.6
HAWTHORNE (LA WATER DEPT)Not detectedNone detected
HERM / REDO (California Water Service)0.33 - 1.32Not listed
HUNTINGTON PARK0.66 - 5.4Not listed
INVERNESSNot listedNot listed
LANCASTER4.95 - 20.07.61 - 21.8
LATHROP2.71 - 4.0Not listed
LEONA VALLEY1.9 - 2.0.33 - 2.0
LIVERMORE 12.32 - 27.644.2 - 4.2
LODI0.73 - 6.1Not listed
LOS ALTOS5.23 - 15.08Not detected
LOS BANOS25.56 - 27.67Not listed
MADERA0.08 - 1.00.38 - 1.5
MANTECA0.64 - 6.5Not listed
MARIN Not detectedNot detected
MARTINEZNot detectedNot detected
MARYSVILLE4.32 - 10.14Not listed
MODESTO0.24 - 11.0 Not listed
MONTEBELLO2.62 - 7.14Not listed
MONTEREY.22 - 8.0Not listed
MONTEREY PARK.24 - 4.382.66 - 4.27
MORGAN HILL1.18 - 4.2Not detected
MOUNTAIN VIEW.86 - 2.48 - 1.9
NORTH MARINNot detectedNot listed
OAKLANDNot detectedNot listed
OROVILLE1.06 - 7.01Not detected
PALMDALE2.61 - 12.02.77 - 7.41
PATTERSON18.14 - 28Not listed
PITTSBURGNot detectedNot detected
PLEASANTON.85 - 2.18Not listed
POINT REYES.21 - 1.05Not listed
POMONA (highest I've EVER SEEN)9.86 - 170.012.44 - 170.0
RIPON2.77 - 9.0Not listed
RIVERSIDE3.06 - 12.02.24 - 2.8
SALINAS6.82 - 20.273.78 - 7
SALINAS HILLS3.24 - 11.92Not detected (???)
SAN DIEGONot detectedNot detected
SAN FRANCISCO REGIONALNot detectedNot listed
SAN GABRIEL VALLEY WATER0.75 - 4.23.57 - 7.0
SAN JOSE4.15 - 20.323.82 - 5.7
SAN JOSE (Evergreen)2.2 - 73.2 - 3.7
SAN JOSE (Great Oaks Water Co)2.03 - 6.25.1 - 6.7
SAN JOSE STATE UNIVERSITYNot listed3.55 - 3.55
SANTA CLARANot detectedNot listed
SELMA2.39 - 6.941.6 - 1.6
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO10.14 - 33.56Not listed
STINSON BEACHNot detectedNot listed
STOCKTON1.23 - 12.52.3 - 5.3
SUNNYVALE.26 - 1.53Not listed
TRACY2.15 - 8.01Not listed
TURLOCK4.98 - 17 6.2
VALENCIA.58 - 120.18 - 1.8
VISALIA1.78 - 5.271.42 - 2.2
WHITTIER.24 - 1.4.36 - 1.1
ZONE 7 WATER AGENCY (OAKLAND AREA).64 - 8.43Not detected

While looking up this information I also noted a few places that seemed to have extremely high levels of other toxins, like Trihalomethanes (a known carcinogen) and Manganese (which is shown to cause Parkinson's-like symptoms). I am sure there are many, many more that would be cause for concern but those are two of the few that I have actually had time to look into. Bakersfield had a level of Manganese that had a maximum test level of 260 parts per billion (the legal limit is 50 parts per billion). Bolinas, CA (where my best childhood friend lived at one point) had low levels of chromium, but a staggering maximum test level for trihalomethanes at 260 parts per billion (3 times the legal limit... which is pretty bad because the "legal limit" is usually WAY above the "health limit")!!!

Please see what is the level in your area for these contaminants, and if it is above the "health limit".... BE SURE TO FILTER YOUR WATER!!!  Even just a good carbon Brita filter should be able to help you get rid of at least some of these toxins (you may want to look this up yourself but I have heard that carbon does a decent job in terms of filtration... just BE SURE TO CHANGE YOUR FILTERS REGULARLY!). If you're trying to get your water as clean as you can possibly get it, I have heard that one of the BEST methods for removing every trace of toxins is an reverse osmosis... however, I also know someone who got VERY sick from drinking reverse osmosis and distilled water for years (in Japan these types of waters are called "dead water" because all the minerals are removed... something many people don't know, like I didn't). So if you do go the route of reverse osmosis, you should consider adding a remineralization cartridge.

In my opinion, though, Reverse Osmosis water is VERY pricey. At my last day job, part of my job was to change the reverse osmosis filters for the company (we usually had less than a dozen employees in the building and people rarely drank the water because we had a fridge full of sodas , flavored sparkling waters and every kind of drink you could ever want!). I had to change those filters every 11-25 days (two at a time... and they cost $49 for a 2-pack from Sears). It's a pretty big, bulky thing to throw away and I always felt guilty about it, but they are NOT recyclable. I have also heard reverse osmosis wastes a TON of water (I was told it can take 12 gallons of water to produce 1 clean gallon of Reverse Osmosis water... not a good choice for the environment!!). Unless you buy a top of the line machine, but then the MACHINE will be pricey.

I also heard that a good, "inexpensive" way to remove Chromium 6 is with an antioxidant filter. However, I just realized that the machine I have (that makes alkaline water with 10x more antioxidants than green tea)  is about the same, cost-wise, in terms of 15-year costs (it could be even less, because in many cases I've heard these machines can last 15-30 years with proper care and maintenance... like a Honda). The machine I have is a top-of the line machine, made with a built-to-last transformer (vs. cheaper SMPS technology) that is actually certified medical equipment (used in hospitals in Japan, and they are #1 in longevity). The original models were $500,000 machines, but the company decided to make affordable units so people could use them in their homes. Currently, one in 4 households in Japan has one of these machines that makes this water.

This machine makes antioxidant water that can retain 90% of it's antioxidants after 3 hours (whereas most alkaline water machines make water that loses 90% of it's antioxidants within the same time frame). The reason it's able to make this water hold it's charge is because it uses higher grade parts, medical grade materials, and the transformer enables the machine to make water with a steady, long-lasting charge. 

Also, the type of water it makes (electrolyzed reduced water) has been shown in dozens of studies to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, and in some cases, reduces them. I realize this sounds like a big claim but if you email me I am happy to show you the documents and studies (I have 5 pages' worth of just the titles of the studies, alone). If you are interested in learning more about the machine I have, just email me.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post. If you haven't already done so, please take a few minutes to check out my post about Hexavalent Chromium on THIS PAGE.

Laura Ellen

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