Byline: Troy Anderson Staff Writer
Responding to a study showing high levels of chromium 6 in tap water at Los Angeles County government facilities, county supervisors said Thursday they will ask Gov. Gray Davis to order a cleanup of water supplies.
The study, conducted by the county's Environmental Toxicology Bureau, tested tap water at 110 county government facilities and found 39 percent contained the suspected carcinogen at levels 13 to 40 times higher than safe drinking water goals.
The highest level - 7.84 parts per billion - was detected at the Burbank Health Center. Among the other 10 county facilities with the highest levels were the Palmdale Primary Care Center, 6.62 ppb; the Municipal Court in San Fernando, 5.44 ppb; and the North Valley Court in San Fernando, 5 ppb.
``The results of this report are not intended to frighten the public, but to make them aware . . . of the widespread presence of chromium 6 in our drinking water,'' said Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who requested the study after his son's doctor recommended that they give him only distilled bottled water.
Chromium salts are used by the aerospace industry, electroplating and petroleum refining plants. The suspected carcinogen was made famous by this year's movie ``Erin Brockovich,'' in which the heroine exposed dangerous levels of chromium 6 in drinking water in the dessert community of Hinkley, Calif.
Although no formal standards have been set for chromium 6, the state has set a minimum goal of 0.2 ppb as a safe drinking water level.
Allan Hirsch, spokesman for the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, said as long as chromium 6 stays below 0.2 ppb ``we don't think there is a significant health risk. When you get above 0.2 ppb, you get into something of a gray area.''
The study noted that chlorinating water may increase concentrations of chromium 6. Moreover, there is no technology to remove chromium 6 from the water supply, said Wasfy Shindy, director of the county's Environmental Toxicology Bureau.
Shindy recommended that municipal water companies stop mixing clean water with water from wells tainted with chromium 6, a practice common throughout the county.
``Don't mix the bad water with the good,'' he said.
Antonovich said Shindy's office plans to test 180 wells throughout the county and 2,400 county facilities.
The supervisors are expected to vote Tuesday whether to ask state and federal officials to study the effects of chromium 6 on human health at low levels and request that acceptable levels be cut to 0.2 ppb.
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