Today, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) of the California Environmental Protection Agency announced a new proposed standard for hexavalent chromium in drinking water. The proposed public health goal for hexavalent chromium, more commonly known as chromium 6, in drinking water is 0.06 ug/L or 0.06 parts per billion (ppb). The proposed standard is based on tumor incidence data from rodent cancer bioassays.

California has not had a specific standard for hexavalent chromium. California and the federal government currently have drinking water standards for “total chromium,” which consists of both chromium 6 and chromium 3. Since the Erin Brockovich movie, California has been considering whether to develop a PHG for chromium 6 for over a decade, but scientific data has been lacking.

A public health goal (PHG) is the level of a chemical contaminant in drinking water at which adverse health effects are not expected to occur from a lifetime of exposure. The proposed PHG is not a regulatory standard per se but standards developed by other state agencies for drinking water and clean up standards are based in part on the PHG. For instance, the California Department of Public Health uses PHGs to develop the state’s regulatory drinking water standards. They often become the basis for clean up standards for contaminated soil or groundwater.

This is a proposed standard and thus public comments are being solicited for the next 45 days. Written comments are due by October 19, 2009 by 5:00 p.m. Verbal comments can be delivered at the public workshop on October 19, 2009 at the Elihu Harris Building, 1515 Clay Street, Oakland, 94612, Room 1, 10 a.m.-12 noon, or until business is concluded.