Calif. Proposes Limits to Cancer-Causing Chemical in Drinking Water

And it only took 13 years after ‘Erin Brockovich’ hit screens.

'Erin Brockovich' brought to light illnesses caused by contaminated water in Hinckley, Calif. (Photo: Universal Pictures)

Aug 23, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is TakePart's News Editor.

More than a decade after the movie Erin Brockovich made infamous the story of contaminated water causing sickness in Californians, state officials have proposed limits to a cancer-causing contaminant in drinking water.

Back in 2001, legislators in California were the first to pass a law requiring a maximum contaminant level for hexavalent chromium, and if it actually goes into effect, California would be first to establish such a rule.

About 300 wells in the state will be affected by the new limits, according to The Desert Sun, and state officials say the fixes are expected to cost $156 million annually to bring the water systems into compliance.

Water authorities in the Coachella Valley Water District, where 98 drinking wells will need fixing, say water customers could see a major increase in their water bill, with service charges spiking from $7 to about $50.

And that’s after state officials took the economic impact into account and loosened the standard to allow 10 parts per billion of the chemical. The state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment had recommended a 0.02 parts per billion standard.

The acting chief of the state’s Division of Drinking Water and Environmental Management told the Sun that economics were “the key driver” in setting the limit. State law requires the standard to take into account economic factors and technological capabilities.

A public comment period has opened on the proposed regulation and will run through Oct. 11.

The dangers of hexavalent chromium came to light after then-legal clerk Brockovich helped Mojave Desert residents develop a case against Pacific Gas & Electric. Co. in the 1990s.

Julia Roberts won her only Academy Award for Best Actress in 2000 for her portrayal of Brockovich as a hard-charging advocate.

California lawmakers moved to pass a law after the movie’s release.