Water toxin affects Erie County

Category:  News
Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 at 6:00 PM
Water toxin affects Erie County by Kimberly Firestine
Contributed Graphic

A new study from the Environmental Working Group, released Sept. 20, has shed new light upon water contamination for over 200 million Americans. The analysis of federal data from drinking water tests in all 50 states shows high levels of chromium-6, the compound of “Erin Brockovich” fame.

According to the study, 52 out of 67 counties in PA were tested and 51 showed positive results for chromium-6. This includes Erie County, where both water systems and 21 out of 24 water samples tested positive for the compound. Crawford County was the only tested county in PA to not show positive results.

In a 2008 study by the National Toxicology Program, it was discovered that drinking water with the chromium-6 contamination caused cancer in laboratory test subjects. Two years later, scientists at the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment “concluded that ingestion of tiny amounts of chromium-6 can cause cancer in people,” according to the EWG.

The analysis of federal data from drinking water tests began in 2010, when EWG found chromium-6 traces in the tap water of 31 cities — including Pittsburgh and Buffalo. This, according to EWG, sparked nationwide tests of tap water for the contaminant where 75 percent of the results from 2013 to 2015 tested positive.

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard deems a safe amount of chromium-6 in water as 0.02 parts per billion. Erie County water tested at an average of 0.0799 ppb. The EWG study shows that the tests, completed by the Environmental Protection Agency, “covered only a fraction of the small systems and private wells that supply water to more than a third of Americans” and “it is highly likely that chromium-6 contamination is even more widespread.”

Chromium-6 remains an unregulated water toxin, according to the EWG. 

Kimberly Firestine is the arts editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com.

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