Health & Wellness

Chromium-6, the “Erin Brochovich” Toxin, Found in East Hanover Water and Many Communities Throughout New Jersey

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EAST HANOVER, NJ - The East Hanover Water Department is on the list of towns, and water commissions and countywide agencies, that have sites that exceed the report's acceptable level of Chromium-6 in tap water (0.02 parts per billion).

The 2000 movie “Erin Brochovich” immortalized the small California town of Hinkley and the deadly contaminant that poisoned their water. But now, 16 years after the movie and a quarter century after the real Erin Brochovich took her stand, the toxin, chromium-6, is still present and a problem for citizens all over the United States.

Recent studies conducted by Environmental Working Group (EWG) have shown that over 200 million Americans spanning all 50 states are drinking water contaminated with this compound.

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“A new EWG analysis of federal data from nationwide drinking water tests shows that the compound contaminates water supplies for more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states,” the Environmental Working Group said in their report. “ Yet federal regulations are stalled by a chemical industry challenge that could mean no national regulation of a chemical state scientists in California and elsewhere say causes cancer when ingested at even extraordinarily low levels.”

According to the report, chromium-6 has proven in studies conducted in 2008 to cause cancer in mice and later in 2010 was confirmed to have the same effect in humans when taken in even small amounts. The 2010 conclusion was put forward by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and was soon backed up by state scientists in New Jersey and North Carolina. The California scientists went on to establish a public health goal of 0.02 parts per billion in tap water that would be safe to take in over the course of a person’s life.

This 0.02 is far beneath the only legal limits on chromium-6 which is 10 parts per billion, a staggering 500 times the suggested public health goal. Concerned by the 2010 studies, EWG went ahead and conducted water samples throughout the country and found Chromium-6 in 31 major cities. The Environmental Protection Agency then went on to begin nationwide tests for the contaminant.

“From 2013 to 2015, utilities took more than 60,000 samples of drinking water and found chromium-6 in more than 75 percent of them.” EWG went on to say in their report. “EWG's analysis of the test data estimates that water supplies serving 218 million Americans – more than two-thirds of the population – contain more chromium-6 than the California scientists deemed safe.”

See where your area stands with the EWG’s interactive map. (http://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/2016-chromium6-lower-48.php)

New Jersey’s Drinking Water Quality Institute and North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality have followed California in fighting for more regulated levels of chromium-6 in drinking water. New Jersey scientists have put a slightly higher cap on the contaminant with a level of 0.06 parts per billion, but is still far beneath any current legal cut offs.

The EWG report suggests that much of the political silence on this issue is due to the sheer cost of cleaning up so much of a wide spread toxin. The California Department of Public Health is already looking at a 20 million dollar a year project just to get the state’s water levels down to the legal 10 parts per billion. To reach the suggested goal of 0.02, the cost would be astronomical.

The contaminant will not go away by wishing it though. In Morris County alone, 17 out of 18 water systems detected chromium-6 and 210 out of 240 individual samples tested positive for the toxin. These positive tests were found in Denville, Dover, Madison, Montville, Parsippany, Randolph and yes even in East Hanover. The list goes on. In fact, there is only one county in the whole of New Jersey that was tested to have no levels of chromium-6 above the public safety goal of 0.02.

The iconic Erin Brockovich herself, even said “It’s inexcusable that the government has done so little to protect us from this chemical that has been shown to cause cancer at even insanely low levels.”

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