Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote that in 1798 in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” but he could just as easily have been describing the situation in San Jose today. With the rain that’s been pummeling California and another storm on the way today, it really does seem as if there’s “Water, water everywhere.” With the prevalence of hexavelent chromium in our drinking water, it really seems as if there’s, “Nor any drop to drink.”

While most people don’t jump up at the mention of hexavelent chromium, or chromium-6, they do recognize the name Erin Brokovich, largely thanks to Julia Roberts portrayal of her in the 2000 film. Brokovich became famous for building the case against PG&E for contaminating the water supply of the town of Hinkley with the chemical, which resulted in a $333 million settlement. Hexavelent chromium had been shown to cause lung cancer, and has been linked to liver and kidney damage as well as leukemia, stomach cancer and other cancers.

And it is still around today. A study of 35 U.S. cities found by the Environmental Working Group found chromium-6 in the tap water of 31 cities. In other words, 89 percent of the cities tested had measurable amounts of hexavelent chromium in their drinking water. The worst instance was in Norman, Oklahoma, but other cities which showed dangerous amounts of the chemical were, in order, Honolulu, Riverside, CA, Madison, WI, and yes, our very own San Jose, which entered the list in the prestigious fifth spot.

According to the EWG’s website, chromium-6 is a common pollutant in California tap water, with four cities listed as having in excess of 0.06 parts per billion of the chemical. Only Riverside had more. The third place went to Los Angeles, but San Jose has over six and a half times as much chromium-6 in its water as that city does.

California is the only state that requires water utilities to test for hexavalent chromium and the imposition of limits is currently underway. After all, the Environmental Protection Agency has found that its presence in tap water is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” Considering the situation in San Jose’s drinking water, the quicker they act the better. Just ask Erin Brokovich.
Read More at the Huffington Post.
Read More at Yahoo News.
Read More at the Environmental Working Group.