If the chemical hexavalent chromium or chromium-6 doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps the name Erin Brockovich will. Local tap water has tested positive for the same cancer-linked chemical that figured in the movie.
The Villanova area has what the report calls an “unacceptable” amount of the chemical in tap water.
The survey conducted by the Environmental Working Group said 31 of 35 sampled areas around the country have varying amounts of the chemical.
Villanova’s results weren’t the highest, but still three times more than California’s proposed health safety goals. There are no federal guidelines to limit the chemical levels or require testing.
Rebecca Sutton, who is with the non-profit group, said environmental protection agencies should be taking notice.
“This is our first public accessible look at just how widespread this contamination is,” she said. “We do hope that this provides more motivation for the federal EPA and the state EPA, who are already working on this issue to move forward quickly and set safety standards”
While the chemical does occur naturally in rocks and soil, it can also get into water supplies after being discharged from steel and pulp mills. Sutton said whether chromium-6 is from a natural source or not, the risk of gastrointestinal cancer is just as great.
Preston Luitweiler of Aqua of Pennsylvania, the local water utility, suspects any restriction would be much higher than the conservative goal some are pushing for.
“The goal is established as in a perfect world, if we had unlimited resources, if there was no contamination of our sources, what would we want to have as an upper limit on a particular contaminant, he said. ”Then you look at the real world and you decide what an appropriate limit is.”
Luitweiler said the water falls into the safety limits of total chromium allowed in water and residents shouldn’t worry.
Environmentalists argue that total chromium restrictions include chemicals with health benefits such as trivalent chromium or chromium-3. Chromium-6 should be tested separately because it’s more toxic.