THOUSAND OAKS — Drinking water tests here conducted by the law firm of Westlake Village attorney Ed Masry revealed a level of chromium 6 about 10 times higher than the suggested limit and more than 20 times higher than test results released by the city's water supplier Friday.
Masry, who is running for Thousand Oaks City Council, said tap water at test sites in Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills showed readings of 2 parts per billion of chromium 6. The suggested state standard is 0.2 parts per billion.
The tests, conducted in response to requests from residents, were taken from tap water last month and analyzed at Columbia Analytical Lab in Canoga Park, a state-certified lab, Masry said.
Those results, however, contradict a report released Friday by the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District--which supplies all of Thousand Oaks' water through the Calleguas Municipal Water District.
Adan Ortega, water district spokesman, said samples taken during the last two years from 25 locations show levels of less than 0.18 parts per billion. And the highest level from the district's Jensen Plant, where water is piped to Calleguas and sent to six cities and several unincorporated areas in Ventura County, were .085 parts per billion.
Despite the discrepancy--which water officials said they could not explain without knowing the details of the testing methods--local water officials said residents have nothing to worry about.
"That is such a minute level, you're more at risk from the hole in the ozone layer or breathing the air than getting sick from chromium 6," said Don Kendall, general manager of Calleguas. "I'm not concerned at all with that level."
He also assured Thousand Oaks residents about the safety of their water.
"If there was cause for alarm, believe me, we'd be screaming," Kendall said.
Masry agreed there is no cause for alarm but said he is concerned that he didn't know about the presence of chromium 6 in Thousand Oaks water and would like to see the city and the county take a more active role on behalf of residents.
"We're not telling anyone to be in a panic, but we think cities and the county should start monitoring the drinking water for the residents," Masry said.
Metropolitan Water District officials issued their report following a study released by Los Angeles County on Thursday, which showed much higher levels of chromium 6--up to 8 parts per billion--at 110 county facilities.
While there is no state standard for chromium 6, the level suggested by the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, based on health issues alone, is 0.2 parts per billion, said Lea Brooks, spokeswoman for the State Department of Health Services.
Chromium 6, a byproduct of metal plating, is a suspected carcinogen in water.
Brooks said health officials are gathering more information about the levels of chromium 6 in drinking water supplies throughout the state.
While all water districts must test for chromium, few--the Metropolitan Water District among them--test specifically for chromium 6. Chromium 6 contamination in Hinkley, Calif., was at the center of Masry's $333-million judgment against Pacific Gas & Electric, which was dramatized in the movie "Erin Brockovich." Concentrations in that case were as high as 24 parts per million--more than 3,000 times higher than those found in Thousand Oaks.
"We're a long way from Hinkley, but what the long-term effects of drinking 2 parts per billion of chromium 6 per day is, I can safely say nobody knows," Masry said.
Brooks said the health agency hopes to have regulations in place for statewide monitoring of chromium 6 by the end of this year. Masry said that in the meantime, his office will conduct weekly tests and release the results to the public.