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2 Cities to Test Water Supplies for Chromium 6

Environment: San Fernando, Glendale act separately in voting to hire consultants. Los Angeles, Burbank ask to share the results.

October 18, 2000|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN and JEAN GUCCIONE | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Amid worries about chromium 6 contamination in tap water, the Glendale and San Fernando city councils agreed separately Tuesday to hire consultants to test their water supplies.

Glendale Mayor Dave Weaver said his city was being proactive because the state currently has no standard for chromium 6, a suspected carcinogen.

"We are taking this action until we are comfortable with the quality of water we are receiving from the treatment plant," Weaver said in a statement.

The cities of Burbank and Los Angeles, which pump ground water from the same basin, have asked Glendale officials to share the consultant's work, Weaver said.

On Friday, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency denied Glendale's request to delay accepting treated ground water for consumer use. The city had sought the delay while it considered the potential health risks associated with chromium 6 in the water.

EPA officials, however, say the treated water meets all state and federal drinking-water standards. Yet they will allow the city to dump the treated water into the Los Angeles River for 90 days while city officials study the issue.

In a separate action, the San Fernando City Council discussed closing four of its ground-water wells, which supply the city's 24,800 residents.

After discussion, however, the council decided instead to hire a consultant to test its wells, saying there was not enough evidence to justify closing the wells at this time.

The San Fernando council took up the issue after a random tap water survey by Los Angeles County found chromium 6 levels of between 5 parts per billion and 5.44 parts per billion at two separate Superior Court buildings in San Fernando.

Although the state has no standard for chromium 6, it does limit total chromium concentrations of up to 50 parts per billion. A state agency has proposed toughening the chromium standard to 2.5 parts per billion, which is intended to reduce chromium 6 levels to 0.2 parts per billion.

The measurements at the San Fernando courthouses on 3rd and 1st streets were in the top 10 among 110 government facilities tested by the county's environmental toxicology bureau.

Closing the wells would mean that San Fernando would have to import all of its water from the Metropolitan Water District, which officials say could cost the city more than $1 million annually.

Mel Blevins, the court-appointed water master for the Upper Los Angeles River, argued against closing the wells.

Blevins, whose job includes settling ground-water pumping disputes between San Fernando, Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale, said that closing the wells would be costly and that the threat of chromium 6 had not been proven.

Councilwoman Beverly Di Tomaso, however, noted that government agencies had made mistakes on the safety of chemicals before and said the city should not put cost ahead of the safety of its drinking water.

The actions by the two cities follow a Times report Aug. 20 that said a 1998 recommendation for tougher chromium 6 standards was still being studied by state Department of Health Services officials, and that adopting the standard may take another five years.

In response, the county conducted random tests of its tap water and Gov. Gray Davis has signed legislation to accelerate the study of the chromium 6 threat. Los Angeles city and county officials have also taken steps to assess the risk from chromium 6 in local drinking water wells.

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