Walt Disney Studios air conditioning leak suspected to have caused groundwater contamination

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Walt Disney Studios air conditioning leak suspected to have caused groundwater contamination

Studios in Burbank being investigated by Federal and State regulators according to GrandeAire.com: see LA Times Video

Article courtesy of Justin Wade Adams | August 25, 2012 | EMAILWIRE.COM | Shared as educational material only

One of the most renowned theme parks of the world, Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, CA., is suspected to be the cause of contaminating groundwater with cancer-causing heavy metal, chromium 6, after a leak in their aging air conditioning system.

At the moment, it has not been confirmed whether Disney’s air conditioning is to blame fully for this mind boggling contamination, but federal and state regulators have been called in to investigate the issue.

According to the LATimes.com, a consultant has been brought in by the Environmental Protection Agency and has listed the Disney Studios and its surrounding areas as “potential sources of chromium contamination in groundwater”.

Chromium 6 is a very dangerous chemical for human beings and has been termed to be cancer-causing by experts. It is used mainly in aerospace manufacturing along with its use in other major industries.

What brought the Disney Studios under scrutiny is their use of cooling towers, a well known source of chromium 6 when a similar chemical leak was caused in other sites.

“We’re trying to determine the source of chromium — why is it there?” Lisa Hanusiak, remedial project manager for EPA Region 9, said. “We had these soil samples downgrade, so that led us to think, What was going on at facilities upgrade?”

For now, Disney has not accepted any allegations of using chromium 6 in any of its air conditioning systems or cooling towers. They made their side of the story known in a response to the EPA earlier in May of 2011. Disney also made it clear to the agency that there were small, but legitimate amounts of chromium, which are used to clean equipment in film processing only and not disposed on in an inconsiderate manner.

Disney’s cooling systems date back to 1993, when they were replaced with cooling towers for the first time since 1938.

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Cancer-causing chemical found in 89 percent of cities sampled

our team of scientists, engineers, policy experts, lawyers and computer programmers pores over government data, legal documents, scientific studies and our own laboratory tests to expose threats to your health and the environment, and to find solutions. Our research brings to light unsettling facts that you have a right to know.

Laboratory tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group have detected hexavalent chromium, the carcinogenic “Erin Brockovich chemical,” in tap water from 31 of 35 American cities. The highest levels were in Norman, Okla.; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Riverside, Calif. In all, water samples from 25 cities contained the toxic metal at concentrations above the safe maximum recently proposed by California regulators.

The National Toxicology Program has concluded that hexavalent chromium (also called chromium-6) in drinking water shows “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity” in laboratory animals, increasing the risk of gastrointestinal tumors. In September 2010, a draft toxicological review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) similarly found that hexavalent chromium in tap water is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” read entire article>>>

Chromium-6 – the Erin Brockovich Chemical – Is Widespread in U.S. Tap Water

Tests find cancer-causing chemical in 89 percent of cities sampled: Chromium-6 in tap water of 35 cities averaged 3 times California’s proposed safety goal:

Executive Summary

Tap water from 31 of 35 U.S. cities tested contains hexavalent chromium (or chromium-6), the carcinogenic “Erin Brockovich chemical,” according to laboratory tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG). The highest levels were detected in Norman, Okla.; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Riverside, Calif. read entire article>> [/toggle] [toggle title=” EPA discusses Hexavalent Chromium (Chromium-6):
” height=”auto”]

Ensuring safe drinking water for all is a top priority for EPA, state drinking water agencies, and drinking water systems across the country. EPA has an enforceable drinking water standard which sets a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 0.1 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for total chromium. The standard for total chromium, which includes chromium-6 and chromium-3, requires all community and non-transient, non-community water systems to test for chromium at the entry point to the distribution system. The chromium standard was established in 1991 and was based on the best available science at the time which indicated that continued exposure to chromium-6 could result in allergic dermatitis (skin reactions).

EPA began a rigorous and comprehensive review of the health effects of chromium-6 following the 2008 release of toxicity studies by the Department of Health and Human Service’s National Toxicology Program. In September, 2010, EPA released a draft of the scientific human health assessment (Toxicological Review of Hexavalent Chromium) for public comment and external peer review. When this human health assessment is finalized EPA will carefully review the conclusions and consider all relevant information to determine if a new standard needs to be set.

In the interim period, EPA is providing the following guidance to water systems on how they may monitor for chromium-6 in addition to the monitoring they are required to perform for total chromium. EPA believes that monitoring for chromium-6 will enable public water systems (PWSs) to: better inform their consumers about the levels of chromium-6 in their drinking water, evaluate the degree to which other forms of chromium are transformed into chromium-6 in their drinking water and assess the degree to which existing treatment is affecting the levels of chromium-6.

Enhanced Monitoring

Laboratories and Methods



Enhanced Monitoring

Why is EPA seeking assistance from water systems to understand chromium-6 levels? If we’re not sure what a safe level is at this stage, why monitor now?

It is possible that a lower, more stringent regulatory level for chromium will be considered in the future. Given that possibility, it will be extremely helpful to EPA, states, and utilities to prepare now by gaining a better understanding of the span and scope of the issue. EPA strongly recommends that utilities think proactively in terms of gaining a better understanding of the nature and sources of chromium-6 and how they might be addressed in the future. EPA will analyze stakeholder comments received on the proposed third cycle of the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Regulation (UCMR 3) on whether to use UCMR3 to conduct a systematic monitoring of chromium-6. Regardless of what direction EPA takes on chromium-6 in UCMR 3, EPA strongly encourages systems to start monitoring for chromium-6 at this time in order to provide more robust occurrence data that may be used in determining economic and technical feasibility for establishing a possible revision of the MCL.Why isn’t EPA requiring water systems to perform chromium-6 monitoring through the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR)?
In February 2011, EPA solicited public comment on requiring water systems to monitor for chromium-6 and total chromium through UCMR 3.The proposed UCMR 3 was published in the Federal Register on March 3, 2011 and its 60-day public comment period ended May 2, 2011. EPA is evaluating comments received on including monitoring for chromium-6 as it develops the final UCMR3 rule. EPA plans to publish the final UCMR 3 rule and its decision of whether chromium-6 will be included in the monitoring requirements of the rule in 2012. For the status of the UCMR 3 rule see http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/ucmr/ucmr3/index.cfm.Should my water system conduct enhanced monitoring for chromium-6?
Given the emerging public health information, EPA has provided guidance to public water systems on how systems could enhance chromium monitoring through additional sampling and analysis specifically for chromium-6. The Agency encourages water systems to consider the following recommendations and to determine how your system might enhance drinking water monitoring for chromium-6.
Where should water systems collect samples?
Chromium is complex in its behavior in drinking water systems as it may occur in water systems in both the chromium-3 and chromium-6 forms. Under distribution system conditions– in the presence of an oxidant such as chlorine — chromium-3 can be transformed into the more toxic chromium-6 form. Existing treatment processes such as conventional treatment may be effective in removing chromium-3, but not chromium-6. To understand the fate of incoming chromium-6 in raw water supplies or transformed chromium-6 from chromium-3 following conventional treatment and disinfection, EPA recommends that systems collect samples at the locations listed below.
Intake or well locations: EPA recommends that water systems collect samples of untreated water at the intake or well. Systems with multiple intakes and wells should identify sampling points that result in a representative sample of the utilized source waters to account for the multiple sources and seasonal variation in sources. Chromium data at entry points can serve as a guide for identifying the corresponding source water intakes and wells, which should preferably be targeted for monitoring.
Entry points to the distribution system: EPA recommends that systems with drinking water treatment processes also collect samples at the point that treated water enters the distribution system. Systems with multiple entry points should collect samples from representative entry points to the distribution system.Distribution System: EPA recommends that systems collect representative samples from locations within the distribution system. Since chromium-3 can transform into chromium-6 in the distribution system due to the presence of an oxidant such as chlorine, it is desirable that systems monitor for chromium-6 at locations considered to represent the maximum residence time, which is consistent with the monitoring goals for disinfection byproducts.
The number of locations to consider for sampling within the distribution system will depend on the number of entry points, the relational proximity of entry points and the overall size of the distribution system. EPA also recommends that systems collect samples at a subset of 10 or fewer distribution system locations where they currently sample under the disinfection by-products rule stages 1 and 2, and that systems not disinfecting consider collecting samples from a subset of 10 or fewer locations where they typically sample under the total coliform rule .How frequently should samples be collected?
EPA recommends that water systems with surface water sources collect samples quarterly to capture the variation that may occur in the levels of chromium-6 in source waters. EPA recommends that ground water systems be sampled twice per year. EPA recommends that systems collect samples from each of the locations listed above on the same day.
Is EPA requesting water systems to submit chromium-6 monitoring data? 
EPA is not requesting chromium-6 data be submitted, but the Agency is open to receiving any information regarding occurrence and treatment of drinking water contaminants.
Who should I call if I have questions about EPA’s recommended enhanced monitoring for chromium-6? 
Contact EPA via email at the Safe Drinking Water Hotline website or call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 (Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time).

Laboratory and Method

What analytical method is appropriate to measure chromium-6?
EPA recommends that laboratories use EPA Method 218.7, “Determination of Hexavalent Chromium in Drinking Water by ion Chromatography with Post-Column Derivatization and UV-Visible Spectroscopic Detection” (Version 1, November 2011), available for download at: http://water.epa.gov/scitech/drinkingwater/labcert/upload/EPA_Method_218-7.pdf.

This method is based on a modified version of EPA Method 218.6, “Determination of Dissolved Hexavalent Chromium in Drinking Water, Groundwater and Industrial Wastewater Effluents by Ion Chromatography” (Rev. 3.3, 1994; www.nemi.gov), which were outlined in Dionex Corp. Application Update 144 “Determination of Hexavalent Chromium in Drinking Water by Ion Chromatography” found at www.dionex.com/en-us/webdocs/4242-AU144_LPN1495.pdf and also in Metrohm USA Inc.’s IC Application Work AW US6-0152-012001 found at http://info.metrohmusa.com/hexachrome/downloads/HexachromebyIC.pdf. By following EPA Method 218.7, laboratories are capable of attaining a detection limit as low as 0.005 micrograms per liter µg/L (ppb) and can support a reporting limit of 0.03 µg/L (ppb). Any equivalent ion chromatographic system from any manufacturer with comparable hardware that can generate this performance and meet the quality control requirements in Section 9.0 of EPA Method 218.7 may also be used.

Links to non-EPA sites do not imply any official EPA endorsement of, or responsibility for, the opinions, ideas, data or products presented at those locations, or guarantee the validity of the information provided.

How can I find a laboratory to analyze chromium-6?
If a public water system is having difficulty finding a laboratory that offers chromium-6 analysis, there are several state certified laboratories in California that are familiar with the modified EPA Method 218.6. The California list of laboratories is posted at Certified laboratories for Testing Chromium-6 in Drinking Water.At present the list includes about 20 commercial labs. The California reporting level for chromium-6 is 1 ppb but each laboratory will have its own method reporting level, which may be lower. Public water systems soliciting for laboratory support from California certified laboratories should ask about the capability to support a chromium-6 suggested reporting limit of 0.03 ppb. EPA has learned that most laboratories are capable of a much lower reporting limit.

What additional quality control measures are important? 
Section 9 of EPA Method 218.7 includes necessary quality control measures for the method. Any laboratory conducting chromium-6 analysis using this method must meet these quality control requirements to report valid data. Laboratories should also supply the following information for quality control purposes:
  • Supporting analytical quality control data with observations.
  • Calibration validation data.
  • Demonstration of accurate and precise lab fortified blank measurements at the expected minimum reporting level (0.03 ppb).

An additional quality control measure is to test replicate samples to evaluate the accuracy and precision of recoveries from field sample matrix fortified with chromium-6. This can be accomplished by preparing and analyzing lab fortified sample matrices or matrix spike samples with the companion lab fortified sample matrices duplicate or matrix spike duplicate sample.


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