Written by Geraldine Totesaut, Marketing Project Leader for Save The Water™ | May 5, 2017
As much as we might not like to readily admit it, the sad and hard truth is that a lot of Americans take the country’s supply of drinking water for granted. Many of us do so in terms of tap water. We fall into the mistake of only paying attention to the threats and dangers of having industrial chemicals in our water supplies at times when there seems to be an imperil to the general health of a community. The imminent danger posed by lead poisoning to the lives of children in Flint, Michigan has caught the attention of the entire country.5 However, what most people do not know is that another similar story is rapidly unfolding in other major parts of the United States of America.
Florida is also facing a similar conundrum; news reports are coming in about contaminated drinking water throughout the state. Contaminated water, public health issues, and safety problems are beginning to alarm the residents of Tampa Bay. Recently, the Environmental Working Group published a study that showed drinking water in Tampa Bay contains levels of chromium that are far above the legal limit of the California Office of Environmental Health Hazards Assessment.7 Citizens have been put in high alert and have begun earnestly questioning their safety with every passing day that this news spreads.
What is Chromium?
Early in 1993, a single mother by the name Erin Brockovich was on a mission to end the contamination of water in her local area by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company in California1. Her work, portrayed in the movie “Erin Brockovich,” uncovered how this company had been poisoning the small town of Hinkley’s Water for over 30 years.7 The exact contaminant was chromium-6, a toxin linked with liver damage, reproductive complications, and impediments to development which were also widely known for causing cancer.7 This same contaminant has been found in water supply outlets all over Tampa Bay.7
Chromium-6 is a cancer-causing chemical, that occurs naturally in the environment, but high quantities are also produced by industrial projects.1 Pollution can occur when these industrial sites fail to follow proper waste disposal methods, such as unlined coal ash ponds.4 According to David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG, “The difficulty with chromium-6 is how to set a standard to protect human health during windows of development.”1 This chromium-6, sooner or later, will find its way into our drinking water. Even in small amounts, chromium-6 can cause skin burns, pneumonia, complications during childbirth, and stomach cancer.1
Despite the evidence provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency has not set a legal limit for chromium-6 in tap water.2 The Environmental Working Group analyzed data from water tests, which were conducted all over the country in an attempt to assess the state of contaminates in drinking water.2 These tests showed that chromium-6 contaminates the water supply of well over 200 million Americans all over the 50 states.7 In Florida, levels of chromium-6 deposits did not go beyond the federal allowed limit for consumption in drinking water, meaning that there will likely be no form of federal regulation on the issue. However, they exceeded the accepted level in California, which is 0.06 parts per billion, and the goal is to be set to 0.02 parts per billion.2 Rebecca Sutton, a senior scientist at EWG, claims, “Hexavalent chromium is commonly discharged from steel and pulp mills as well as metal-plating and leather-tanning facilities. It can also pollute water through erosion of soil and rock.”6
According to the study of the EWG, 20 different parts of Florida have shown levels of chromium-6 deposits that exceed 0.02 ppb.3 The affected regions include Brevard County, covering the cities of Palm Bay, Cocoa, and Titusville, as well as Marion County, which has the highest level of ppb, testing positive in all seven water systems, covering the cities of Ocala, Silver Springs Shores, and Marion Oaks. Below, some of the highest results in the state are provided:
Apart from actions by non-profit organizations such as Save the Water, these companies should be required to immediately reveal every location where chromium-6 was manufactured, used, or disposed of. People’s lives are at stake and it is time something tangible and substantial is done about it.
- Courtney Norris. September 21, 2016. “What is Chromium-6 and how did it Infiltrate America’s Drinking Water?” http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/chromium-6-wash-many-drinking-supplies/
- Environmental Working Group. December 20, 2010. “Chromium-6 in U.S. Tap Water.” http://www.ewg.org/research/chromium6-in-tap-water
- Environmental Working Group. September 20, 2016. “Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 3.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/2016-chromium6-lower-48.php
- John Heilprin. December 20, 2005. “Public Data Show Chemicals in Tap Water.” Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/agmag/2009/09/public-data-show-chemicals-tap-water
- Michael Wines & John Schwartz. February 08, 2016. “Many Cities at Risk of Lead in Drinking Water.” Miami Herald. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article59227723.html
- Rebecca Sutton. “Chromium-6 in U.S. Tap Water.” Environmental Working Group. http://static.ewg.org/reports/2010/chrome6/chrome6_report_2.pdf?_ga=2.222525080.249570595.1494376287-935681591.1494375439
- Sherri Lonon. September 25, 2016. “ICYMI: Some Tampa Bay Towns Have Drinking Water Toxin Made Famous by Erin Brockovich Study Finds.” Sarasota Patch. https://patch.com/florida/sarasota/28-tampa-bay-communities-have-drinking-water-toxin-made-famous-erin-brockovich