Tag: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Cancer-causing Toxin Found in West Suburban Drinking Water

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Saturday, September 24, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || UPDATED: 8:00 p.m.

A new report published last week by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows that millions of Americans use tap water that contains hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, which studies have shown may increase the risk of certain types of cancers and other diseases.

Among those millions are residents of Maywood, Bellwood and Melrose Park, whose water systems, the EWG’s tests indicate, have levels of the toxin ranging between 600 percent and more than 1,000 percent higher than the level considered safe by California public health officials.

In California, which is the only state to set a legal limit for the toxin, the proposed public health goal is 0.02 parts per billion (ppb) —  “the amount posing no more than a one-in-a-million risk of cancer for people who drink it daily for 70 years,” the EWG notes. The state’s legal limit, however, is much higher at 10 ppb. 

The EWG’s chromium-6 testing, conducted between 2013 and 2015, showed that the level at which the toxin was detected in samples ranged from 0.18 to 0.23 ppb in Maywood, from 0.14 to 0.20 ppb in Melrose Park and 0.17 to 0.23 ppb in Bellwood. Broadview wasn’t listed among the water systems included in EWG’s testing from 2013-15.

The level at which the toxin was detected in samples across Cook County ranged from no detection at all to 1.00 ppb. The average level county-wide was 0.188.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets a maximum level of exposure for chromium-6 at 100 ppb. In Illinois, according to a Patch analysis of the EWG report, “none of the 162 systems tested in Cook, DuPage, Will, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Kendall counties reached that level, nor even came close. But only 22 of the tested systems showed no trace of chromium-6.”

Chromium-6 was made famous in the popular 2000 movie “Erin Brockovich,” based on the unemployed single mother who takes on an electric utility company after learning that chromium-6 has contaminated the groundwater of Hinkley, Calif. residents. 

In a recent statement, the EWG cited a two-year study by the National Toxicology Program that showed a correlation between chromium-6 in drinking waters and cases of cancer in lab rats and mice.

“Based on this and other animal studies, in 2010, scientists at the respected and influential California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment concluded that ingestion of tiny amounts of chromium-6 can cause cancer in people, a conclusion affirmed by state scientists in New Jersey and North Carolina,” the EWG notes.

Chromium-6, according to the EWG, is a “naturally occurring compound and an essential human nutrient. Chromium-6 also occurs naturally, but is manufactured for use in steel making, chrome plating, manufacturing dyes and pigments, preserving leather and wood and, as in the Brockovich case, lowering the temperature of water in the cooling towers of electrical power plants.

“Chromium-6 is also in the ash from coal-burning power plants, which is typically dumped in unlined  pits that a 2011 report by the nonprofit Earthjustice said may threaten hundreds or thousands of water supplies and private wells.”

Due in large part to lobbying efforts by big energy companies, among other commercial interests, chromium-6 remains unregulated by the U.S. EPA despite its known harms. Big companies have also funded massive PR efforts to discredit the link between chromium-6 and cancer.

The EWG has initiated an online petition to push the EPA to regulate the presence of what’s called the Erin Brockovich chemical in the country’s tap water supply. You can access it here. VFP

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Maywood’s Sky High Water Bills Partly Due To Sky High Waste

leakage_management_teaser_imageWednesday, November 4, 2015 || By Michael Romain 

EDITORIAL | During an Oct. 20 regular board meeting, Maywood resident Dawn Williams-Rone expressed her dissatisfaction with the village’s high water bills — bills Rone, along with many other residents, are convinced are high unnecessarily.

Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr., pointed out in a prior meeting that an audit conducted two years ago showed the village has 25 leaks in its underground water delivery system, Williams-Rone said.

“Due to those leaks, there’s a wastage of water and that wastage has to be paid for,” she noted. “Unfortunately, it’s paid for on the backs of us who live here in Maywood and pay water bills. We’re paying for 25 known leaks. Water is being wasted every month and this is why water bills are so high. If those leaks were addressed two years ago, we wouldn’t have had such high water payments. I was really appalled by that.”

At a board meeting last year, Jason Coyle, a partner with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, the accounting firm that prepares the Village’s annual financial audits, said the village’s water fund was running a $1 million deficit at the time — in part due to the massive leaks.

And those leaks, as village engineer Mark Lucas noted at the time, could indeed have perhaps been prevented, or at least monitored better. Lucas said that an annual sewer maintenance program in operation in the early 2000s was allowed to go defunct — not good for a system that’s around 80 years old, according to Lucas, and requires constant vigilance.

But Maywood’s leaks aren’t peculiar to Maywood.

Josh Ellis, with the nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), estimated two years ago that up to 70 million gallons of water a day is not even used because of leaks that proliferate in old infrastructure across the state.

According to a 2014 study by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the greater Chicago area “22 billion gallons of treated water per year through leaky pipes.”

“We figured that that could fill the residential needs of about 700,000 people in a year,” Tim Loftus, a water resource planner with CMAP, told National Public Radio at the time.

Throughout metropolitan Chicago, there are so many leaks in the area’s old piping systems that the wasted water could fill the Willis Tower each week, the MPC estimates.

And across “the state, too, water mains installed in the early 1900s are beyond their useful life,” notes a September 2015 Associate Press article, which adds that “periods of more extreme drought and precipitation as well as pollutants from agriculture and industry are degrading groundwater resources and infrastructure.”

And yet, despite the need for long-term improvements to aging water systems throughout the country, the AP notes that more than $1 billion of money allocated for water system improvements “sits unspent in government accounts nationwide.”

Between 2011 and 2015, Illinois received nearly $700 million in federal funds for water system improvements. In 2011, 20 percent of that year’s allotment went unspent. There are signs that things have improved, with more of that money having been spent since then, but leaks don’t stop proliferating just because state money frees up.

More than a decade ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Water and Drinking Water Gap Analysis. That report estimated that “if investment in water and wastewater infrastructure does not increase to address anticipated needs, the funding gap over the next 20 years could grow to $122 billion for clean water capital costs and $102 billion for drinking water capital costs.”

The bottom line is that, as long as money isn’t spent on infrastructure improvements (and actual improvements, not ‘set asides’ to cover administrative costs and salaries) taxpayers throughout the country who live in areas with aging water delivery systems will continue to pay more for water than they should be paying.

But when you live in a state whose governor vilifies any spending on the public welfare as waste and abuse, and in a country populated by people who want to do away with agencies like the EPA, investing in improvements now to save tax dollars later becomes easier said than done. VFP