NEWS WORTH NOTING: State Water Board approves removal of drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium; Pyramid Lake algal bloom tested at ‘warning’ level

State Water Board Approves Removal of Drinking Water Standard for Hexavalent Chromium

Action Fulfills Court Order; Board to Create New Standard

From the State Water Resources Control Board:

In accordance with a recent court ruling, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a resolution today to remove the current maximum contaminant level (MCL) for the pollutant hexavalent chromium found in drinking water. The State Water Board will now begin work on establishing a new MCL for the contaminant.

On May 31 the Superior Court of Sacramento County invalidated the MCL for hexavalent chromium, saying the state “failed to properly consider the economic feasibility of complying with the MCL.” The court did “not decide whether the MCL is economically feasible,” nor did it conclude whether the MCL was too high or too low. Rather, the court said the regulation did not adequately document why the MCL was economically feasible.
Hexavalent chromium, also known as chrome 6, is a naturally occurring heavy metal that is also used in a variety of industrial processes. Long-term exposure to the metal may cause cancer.

California became the first state in the nation to issue a drinking water standard for chrome 6 when it set the MCL at 10 parts per billion (ppb) in 2014. The regulation was crafted when the Division of Drinking Water was under the authority of the California Department of Public Health. The Division was transferred to the State Water Board in July 2014.

While the Board disagrees with the court’s decision, it has decided not to appeal and instead will begin the process for adopting a new MCL as soon as possible. The Board will use the wealth of data collected over the last three years since the standard was adopted to help craft a new MCL. Generally, regulation development takes between 18 and 24 months to complete.

With adoption of the resolution, staff will now begin the process of having the text of the current MCL deleted from the California Code of Regulations. The State Water Board must let the court know this has been done by Aug. 15. After the Office of Administrative Law approves the proposal to remove the text, it will be effective in late September.

Since the current MCL will be removed, the State Water Board will no longer enforce compliance plans that public water systems entered into for hexavalent chromium.
However, the state MCL for total chromium of 50 ppb will remain in place. Total chromium measures both trivalent and hexavalent chromium in water together and does not indicate how much of either type exists. Trivalent chromium is not considered toxic and is an essential nutrient in trace amounts. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s MCL for total chromium is 100 ppb.

Chrome 6 remains a threat to public health as it is still present in the water supply of many public water systems. Because of this, the Board will establish a new MCL for Chrome 6 as close as possible to the public health goal set by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. The new standard could be at the same level as the now invalid one.

Public water systems that planned and, in some cases, completed projects to install treatment may be able to use that information and experience in any work necessary to comply with the new MCL when it is adopted. Public water systems that have already installed and are operating treatment systems are encouraged to continue to operate these facilities.

For more information on the development of the new drinking water standard for chrome 6, see the Division of Drinking Water webpage.

Pyramid Lake Algal Bloom Tested at ‘Warning’ Level; Recreational Users Should Take Care To Avoid Algae

From the Department of Water Resources:

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today elevated its algal bloom advisory for Pyramid Lake in Los Angeles County to “Warning,” which means boaters and other recreational users should not swim in the main body of the lake. Based on today’s field test, the advisory for Emigrant Swim Beach remains at “Caution” and is unchanged since mid-July. Swimming is still allowed at that beach, but recreational users are urged to avoid direct contact with blue-green algae.

Bloom conditions can change rapidly, and wind and waves may move or concentrate the bloom into different regions of the lake. The algal bloom can appear as blue-green, white or brown foam, scum or mats that can float on the water’s surface and accumulate along the shoreline and boat ramp area.

Blue-green algae can pose health risks, particularly to children and pets. Visitors to Pyramid Lake are urged to choose safe water activities while recreating there. They should avoid ingesting water in all areas of the lake. Pets should be kept away from the water in all areas under advisory.

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Recreational exposure to toxic blue-green algae can cause eye irritation, allergic skin rash, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, and cold and flu-like symptoms.  Pets can be especially susceptible because they tend to drink while in the water and lick their fur afterwards.

The Statewide Guidance on Cyanobacteria and Harmful Algal Blooms recommends the following for waters impacted by blue-green algae:

  • Take care that pets and livestock do not drink the water, swim through algae, scums or mats or lick their fur after going in the water.  Rinse pets in clean water to remove algae from fur.
  • Avoid wading, swimming or jet or water skiing in water containing algae blooms or scums or mats.
  • Do not drink, cook or wash dishes with untreated surface water from these areas under any circumstances; common water purification techniques such as camping filters, tablets and boiling do not remove toxins.
  • People should not eat mussels or other bivalves collected from these areas.  Limit or avoid eating fish from these areas; if fish are consumed, remove the guts and liver, and rinse filets in clean drinking water.
  • Get medical treatment immediately if you think that you, your pet or livestock might have been poisoned by blue-green algae toxins.  Be sure to alert the medical professional to the possible contact with blue-green algae.  Also, make sure to contact the local county public health department.

For more information, please visit:

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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