Media Overblowing Levels of Chromium 6 in Drinking Water Coming to OC: Mojave Owners

See the update on Page 2 with Cadiz Inc. saying the media is overblowing the amount of chromium 6 in drinking water coming to Orange County.

"They're called boobs, Ed."
"They're called boobs, Ed."
Universal Pictures

ORIGINAL POST, JULY 7, 7:33 A.M.: "They may have a little science here, a little science there, but the complete studies, I don't think, have been completed."

-- Brett Barbre, a Municipal Water District of Orange County board member and Orange County representative to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, disagreeing with new state regulations to minimize cancer-causing chromium 6 in our drinking water, to PBS SoCaL's David Nazar.

Barbre appeared in a recent episode of SoCaL Insider With Rick Reiff, which featured a piece by Nazar titled "Chemical Crackdown" that was about the new state standards for chromium 6 in water. The chemical has been used for years to wash off chrome parts, particularly in the aviation and aerospace industries.

Starting July 1, the new maximum containment level (MCL) for chromium 6 became 10 parts per billion in California. This new regs come at a time when South Orange County's Santa Margarita Water District is expected to produce water from the Mojave Desert that far exceeds that MCL. Which brings us back to Barbre's observation, just before the 4:30 mark in this video:

Before we see and hear Barbre rain on the MCL, we see and hear Erin Brockovich praise the state for the new regs, although she and other activists wanted a MCL of 0.02 parts per billion.

Brockovich's quest to expose the dangers of chromium 6 to residents in the small desert community of Hinkley are dramatized in the 2000 movie Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts. Yes, it really has been 14 years since that flick hit theaters--and 20 years since the real Erin Brockovich and others have called for the state regulations that just days ago finally became realized.

Needless to say, Brockovich does not agree with Barbre's take on the science not being in, as she tells Nazar. "For all those naysayers, you're calling a whole lot of experts around the world stupid. You're calling the state of California stupid. Because they've, what, set an MCL for a chemical based on no data? No information? That's laughable."

Laughable? In Orange County, Ms. Brockovich?

No, typical.
 
UPDATE, JULY 8, 2:12 P.M.: Welcome to the latest installment of log rolling, where one media source reports something picked up by a second media source that reports something picked up by this media source.

We'll end with the actual explanation from Cadiz Inc., which has owned and farmed 35,000 acres if land in the Mojave Desert's Cadiz Valley for 25 years. The company and the Santa Margarita Water District are part of the public-private partnership that will have desert groundwater coming to South County.

But it basically comes down to this: We reported in the original post that new state maximum containment level (MCL) restrictions on the amount of cancer-causing chromium 6 in drinking water come at a time when Santa Margarita "is expected to produce water from the Mojave Desert that far exceeds that MCL."

That, Cadiz Inc. says, is based on a Voice of OC report (click here) that is based on a since updated Los Angeles Times report (and here) that erroneously based the MCL on the water coming to Orange County on the 0.02 parts per billion of chromium 6 that Brockovich and other environmental activists wanted as the state benchmark, which since July 1 became 10 parts per billion.

The chromium 6, which naturally occurs in the Cadiz groundwater and was not dumped or washed into it by industrial users, will be slightly above the state's new MCL (and far below the federal government's 100ppb threshold), the company maintains. And by the time it gets to OC, the water will meet the state regs, the company adds.

But here, let's have Courtney Degener, the Los Angeles-based vice president of Communications for Cadiz Inc., explain it without the media filter:

It was misreported by the Voice of OC that Cadiz groundwater will "far exceed" the new MCL. Similar to other desert groundwater basins, such as the Coachella Valley, chromium is naturally occurring in Cadiz Valley groundwater (not the result of industrial pollution) and is found at amounts that may slightly exceed the new MCL at the wellhead. Voice of OC misleadingly compared our levels to the old, outdated public health goal at 0.02ppb, which was not adopted by the state and is not a measure enforced by any state agency. The state's new MCL is 10ppb; The federal MCL is 100ppb. Because our levels of naturally occurring Chromium 6 are proximate to the new state MCL, we believe that compliance with the MCL will not be expensive or cost prohibitive and there are multiple methods of complying with the MCL prior to water being made available to consumers. If any treatment is needed prior to introducing water into the CRA, Cadiz would pay for such treatment.

Degener also included a link to the update LA Times article (click here) with that corrected detail.

Meanwhile, those those who pointed to this in the original post: No, it was not a mistake that the opener photo is a still from the movie Erin Brockovich. I may not be the brightest fork in the woodshed, but I do know that is Julia Roberts and not the real Brockovich. The reason I showed her and not Ms. B is: 1.) The real Ms. B appears in the PBS SoCal video; and, B.) I wanted an excuse to use the "boobs" dialogue for snark purposes, and since I don't know if it was the real Erin Brockovich or Steven Soderbergh who coined that line, I went with the fictional.

Of course, given the incomplete reporting in the original post, the boob's also on me.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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