National Ground Water Association (NGWA)

Sacramento Superior Court finds complying with chromium-6 water standard not economically feasible

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The Sacramento Superior Court issued a decision on May 5 that the state’s water regulation of hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6 (or chrom-6) water standard, is not economically feasible to public water systems, customers, and other affected parties and must be withdrawn.

A new state drinking water standard, or maximum contaminant level (MCL), for chromium-6 was set at 10 parts per billion in 2014 by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). In accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, the CDPH is directed to establish an MCL for chromium-6 “to the extent technologically and economically feasible” and the standard shall “avoid any significant risk to public health.” Regarding economic feasibility, the CDPH is directed to “consider the costs of compliance to public water systems, customers, and other affected parties.”

Petitioners including the California Manufacturers and Technology Association and Solano County Taxpayers Association — along with other private and public entities — believe the MCL is too stringent and compliance is not economically feasible. Petitioners filed a lawsuit asking the court to order the CDPH to withdraw the standard due to its cost in compliance and to adopt a new standard at a level that would be more economically feasible for chromium-6. The petitioners’ primary claim is the CDPH failed to adopt an MCL that is economically feasible by failing to consider the cost of compliance to public water systems, customers, and other affected parties.

While the court found many of the points the CDPH made in opposition to the petitioners’ claims were well taken, it ruled the CDPH failed to convince that it fully considered whether the MCL it set was economically feasible. It is unclear whether the CDPH will file an appeal.

The State Water Board is currently reviewing the order and will update its website when it can provide details as to the range of impacts as a result of this decision. Since the MCL is withdrawn, the existing standard for total chromium will continue to limit chromium-6 to 50 parts per billion.

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