Study Finds “Erin Brockovich” Toxin in Drinking Water of 138 N.J. Towns

A study released this week found that at least 138 towns in New Jersey have the cancer-causing toxin chromium-6 in their drinking water.

According to the study by nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), these towns have drinking water that exceeds .02 parts per billion total chromium – that’s the level that California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment set as a public health goal.

South Jersey towns including Moorestown, Mount Laurel, Cape May, Collingswood, Deptford, Glassboro and Camden were all listed as having drinking water that exceeded .02 parts per billion total chromium.

Though the water in these towns does not exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s limit of 100 parts per billion, critics argue that even small amounts of chromium over time can cause cancer, liver damage and reproductive problems. The EWG estimates in its report that if the chromium levels do not change, Americans will be faced with more than 12,000 excess cases of cancer by the end of this century.

The toxin chromium-6 was made famous by the court case depicted in the 2000 Oscar-winning film “Erin Brockovich.”

See the full list of N.J. towns that exceed the report’s acceptable level of Chromium-6.





Below is the EPA’s statement on chromium in N.J.’s drinking water:

Ensuring safe drinking water for all Americans is a top priority for EPA. The agency has taken many actions to improve information on chromium and its potential health risks in drinking water. EPA and states are responsible for ensuring that public water systems are in compliance with the current standard for total chromium.

The agency has also collected nationally representative data on the occurrence of both total chromium and hexavalent chromium through the third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3).

EPA is actively working on the development of the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment of hexavalent chromium, which will include a comprehensive evaluation of potential health effects associated with hexavalent chromium, and EPA expects that the draft IRIS assessment will be released for public comment in 2017.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, before EPA can decide whether to regulate a contaminant, it must meet three criteria:

  • The contaminant may have an adverse effect on the health of persons;
  • is known to occur or there is a substantial likelihood that the contaminant will occur in public water systems with a frequency and at levels of public health concern; and
  • in the sole judgment of the EPA Administrator, the regulation of the contaminant presents a meaningful opportunity for health risk reductions for persons served by public water systems. EPA has a drinking water standard of 0.1 milligrams per liter (mg/l) or 100 parts per billion (ppb) for total chromium.

This includes all forms of chromium, including hexavalent chromium. Only one of the almost 5,000 public water systems that monitored total chromium under the UCMR3 reported results that exceeded EPA’s standard.

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