by Bob Gaetjens | Reporter
Aurora -- In the wake of an environmental group's report that the hexavalent Chromium-6, a carcinogen, is present in many drinking water systems throughout the country, local officials have said water supplies are not seriously contaminated by the substance.
According to a report by Environmental Working Group, California is the only state which has established a limit on the amount of Chromium-6 permitted in the water supply. EWG asserts that, according to their analysis of EPA testing data, "that compound contaminates water supplies for more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states."
That includes areas around Northeast Ohio.
EWG states that California set a legal limit of 10 parts per billion of Cromium-6 permitted in water; however, that is not low enough. Although California set a legal limit of 10 parts per billion of Chromium-6 permitted in water, that is not low enough, according the EWG's report.
"The California scientists set a so-called public health goal of 0.02 parts per billion in tap water, the level that would pose negligible risk over a lifetime of consumption. (A part per billion is about a drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool.)," the EWG report stated.
"But in 2014, after aggressive lobbying by industry and water utilities, the state regulators adopted a legal limit 500 times the public health goal. It is the only enforceable drinking water standard at either the state or federal level."
Cleveland Water Quality Manager Scott Moegling said the Cleveland system supplies water for Aurora, Northfield, Macedonia, Boston Township, the city of Twinsburg, a portion of Twinsburg Township and a portion of Hudson.
"DURING THE recent U.S. EPA's Unregulated Contaminants Monitoring Rule testing, we did in fact test for Chromium-6, and our levels were 0.1 parts per billion, or approximately 100 times below California's maximum contaminant level," said Moegling.
As part of the EPA data collection that EWG cites, Moegling said the water feeding the entire system was checked.
"As part of this testing, we tested for Chromium at all four of our treatment plants and in our distribution system as required by the U.S. EPA," he stated in a Sept. 30 email.
He said the Cleveland water supply complies with 10 parts per billion limit for the total amount of Chromium in the water, which includes Chromium-3 and Chromium-6.
"We take any suggestion that our water is not safe seriously, but it is important to note that the water we deliver to our approximately 1.4 million customers meets and exceeds all federal and state regulations, including those related to chromium," he stated.
According to EPA data on Chromium-6 reported in the EWG report, Aurora had .25 parts per billion of Chromium-6 in the water. Kent had .18 parts per billion, Ravenna had .6 parts per billion and Streetsboro had no Chromium-6 in the system.
Portage County Water Superintendent Gene Roberts and Portage County Water Operations Manager Lee Benson said the only Chromium-6 in Portage County water is likely that which occurs naturally in different geological formations.
"We're really comfortable in saying we don't have a problem with Chromium-6," said Roberts.
One of Roberts' customers, the city of Streetsboro, was the only municipality in Northeast Ohio for which data was collected with a clean sample, according to Streetsboro Mayor Glenn Broska, who credited Portage County Water Resources for the accomplishment.
"I have to give Portage County Water Resources the credit," he said. "They are the ones who come in and treat our drinking water."
THE SOURCE for Streetsboro's water -- a well field in a former sand and gravel mine -- may be a factor, as well, added Broska. He said the sand and gravel may act as a natural filter.
In Summit County, the EPA data indicated Stow had .018 parts per billion of Chromium-6 in the water, Tallmadge, .08 parts per billion, Barberton, .004 parts per billion, and Akron, .067 parts per billion.
Cuyahoga Falls conducted an independent test of its water indicating no Chromium-6 in the water, according to Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters.
"Although not requested nor required by the EPA, the city of Cuyahoga Falls voluntarily submitted water samples to Summit Environmental Technologies on Sept. 21, 2016 to test for total Chromium (Cr) and Chromium Hexavalent (Chromium 6)," stated Walters in a recent news release.
Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin, whose city uses primarily Cleveland water, said she's not sure why Chromium-6 isn't regulated in Ohio or federally.
"I don't know why the EPA hasn't regulated it," she said. "I don't know why the EPA does or doesn't do a lot of things."
She said the city tests water regularly for lead and copper and also makes sure quality is high again before turning water back on after outages, due to water line breaks.
If officials decide they need to get rid of Chromium-6, Moegling said there are two methods that could get rid of it -- weak base anion exchange and a process of reduction, coagulation and filtration, which he said is not accomplished through the use of home water softeners.
Because no regulations are currently proposed, he said estimated costs of removing Chromium-6 are not available.
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