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Water Officials Told to Issue Chromium Data

September 27, 2000|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Reflecting growing concern over the safety of local drinking water, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday ordered city water officials to issue a public report on the findings of a task force examining chromium 6 in drinking water.

"We are dealing with a subject that none of us knows all the answers to," said Councilman Hal Bernson. "We need to listen any time there is concern."

The motion, approved on a 13-0 vote, directs the city Department of Water and Power to report the findings of a state, federal and local task force on the effects of proposed tougher standards for chromium 6. The group has been meeting since late 1998.

The action gives the DWP one month to report to the council about levels of chromium 6 in water wells, possible health risks from the chemical and what steps the city could take to cooperate with the state--which is considering the tougher standards.

Pankaj Parekh, the DWP's manager of regulatory compliance, said the agency would comply with the council request.

The council's action follows a Times story last month, reporting that a 1998 state proposal to cut levels of total chromium in water--and therefore levels of its toxic byproduct, chromium 6--had yet to be implemented. State officials said it would take another five years to study the problem and implement a tougher standard.

Last month, DWP officials closed two water wells where total chromium levels registered about 20 parts per billion, suggesting high levels of chromium 6. Chromium 6, which can cause cancer when inhaled but is an unproven health threat when consumed in water, has been found in two dozen water wells in Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale.

Also in response to the story, the state Legislature passed AB 2127, calling on state officials to accelerate their review of chromium 6. Gov. Gray Davis has not indicated whether he will sign the measure.

In addition, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors ordered county officials to test for chromium 6 in tap water at 100 county facilities, including courthouses, health clinics and fire stations. Officials said a first round of tests found high levels of chromium 6 in several locations, but cautioned that further testing was needed.

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