The Environmental Work Group, a non profit group of scientists and activists, released a study on Dec. 20, that found the carcinogenic chemical hexalvalent chromium, or chromium-6, in Norman’s tap water. It is ranked No. 1, or the highest level in the country.
EWG found 12.9 parts of chromium-6 per billion parts of water drawn from the Garber-Wellington aquifer. This is over six times as much found in Honolulu’s tap water, rated second worst in the study, whose faucet-drinking citizens were exposed to 2 ppb’s of the toxin.
Oklahoma City’s tap water, however, does not apply, said Kristy Yager, the city’s spokesperson. “We take water from three different lakes in Oklahoma City, Lake Overholser, Hefner and Stanley Draper,” Yager said. “Then the water goes into a treatment plant at one of those lakes, and from the treatment plant to your house.”
Marsha Slaughter, Oklahoma City’s utilities director, says citizens of the metro are not under any threat as ground and surface water are vastly different.
“Our records show there have been tests made for total chromium for Oklahoma City, and those tests showed no detectable chromium,” Slaugther said.
Norman draws its drinking water from the Garber Wel- lington aquifer, an underground system, using many deep wells known to have high concentrations of metals, including arsenic. Garber-Wellington serves a 3,000 square mile area.
“We take water from three different lakes in Oklahoma City, Lake Overholser, Hefner and Stanley Draper,” Yager said. “Then the water goes into a treatment plant at one of those lakes, and from the treatment plant to your house,” she said.
The State of California’s health standard for Chromium-6 in water is 0.06 ppb.
The amount of chromium- 6 in the Norman drinking water is equal to what was discovered on the outskirts of Hinkley California in the mid 90’s. This led to Pacific Gas and Electric paying the town the largest injury settlement for exposing people to toxins in US history.
“People don’t need to feel anxious or afraid. They just need to install a reverse osmosis filtration system,” said Rebecca Sutton, senior scientist for EWG.
Norman tests its water for total chromium every nine years unless a problem is found, in which case they ramp up the testing to every 3 years. A large part of total chromium includes Chromium-3, a safe essential nutrient, not its hazardous cousin.
“The Environmental Protection Agency is implementing a big plan to test for this contaminate nationwide. The program will provide extra technical support to Norman,” Sutton said.
The federal government has also determined that that trace amounts of rat feces and hair are acceptable in chocolate bars. Rats are known to prosper in large, dark warehouses where huge quantities of sugar are stored.
On Dec. 22, Lisa Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agencies administrator, met with ten U.S. Senators on Norman’s water issue, and released a statement that they would be revising federal water regulations to fix the problem.
Though testing on lab rats proves that Chromium-6 causes stomach cancer in rats, it is inconclusive as to whether it causes cancer in humans when ingested. A recent study by the California Cancer Registry, did not find a higher rate of cancer in the populace of Hinkley, California.
Greg Kail of the American Water Works Association believes EWG are using scare tactics, and while high levels of chromium 6 are a concern, people should not be overly alarmed.
“We do think it’s important that potential substances of concern are evaluated through rigorous testing,” Kail said.
“The question is not whether you can find a substance, but is the substance harmful? Answering one half of the equation isn’t enough,” he said.
Leeann Brown, EWG’s press secretary responded:
“We are certainly not an organization that is here to scare people,” said Brown. “Our report was peer reviewed and supported by a number of scientists nationwide.”
Though the study of Norman’s water was peer reviewed, The Environmental Working Group’s track record includes reports that vaccinations cause autism in children, and that vitamin A in sunscreen causes skin cancer, notions that are false in the eyes of mainstream science.
No one interviewed wanted to eat or drink Chromium-6.
So why is it in the water?
Leeann Brown, EWG’s press secretary suspects its due to a local industrial company shortcutting it’s disposal of chemical waste.
This is not an opinion not shared by Sutton, her scientist co-worker. She believes the contaminate’s presence is from natural causes.
Chromium 6 is used in factories for metal working, leather tanning, and making dye and textiles. It is also an anti-corrosive coolant.
As a test, The City Sentinel called the Oklahoma City Poison Control Center and posed a question regarding eating a quantity of the substance, say on a sandwich.
Randy, an operator who answered the call, recommends that no one eat Chromium-6 as a condiment on a ham sandwich.
“If you swallowed a bit of the Chromium-6 that you put on your sandwich, like a teaspoon, you shouldn’t have any thing to worry about. Chromium-6 is bad for your kidneys and your intestines, but not in the amount you’ve swallowed,” he said.
“But in general you shouldn’t eat chromium-6 no matter how good it tastes,” Randy said.
Neither Poison Control, nor any of the parties involved in testing or regulating hexavalent chromium, tell The City Sentinel exactly what would happen to a human who continuously ingested small amounts of the chemical compound.
“We don’t know exactly what a person would do with that information. We don’t want to help anyone hurt themselves,” he said.
So, back to the FDA’s chocolate regulation by comparison.
So when making a chocolate bar, there is apparently no way to get rid of all the mice droppings or hair that consumers ingest
That’s where the federal government steps in. They regulate how much of a candy bar can be made out of rat droppings.
Will eating a little bit of rodent feces kill a person? Probably not. But should the amount of mice people eat be regulated?
Well, the Food and Drug Administration does regulate the amount of rodent hair and rodent “filth” allowed in chocolate bars. According to FDA guidelines for Sanitation Defect Levels, one hair per every 100 grams of chocolate is a safe amount for the public to consume.
And the federal government’s Chromium-6 solutions will establish guidelines for Norman’s water and oversee a solution to the Chromium-6 problem as well.