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SACRAMENTO, CA — After seven years, the California State Water Board (SWB) finally set a needed limit for Hexavalent Chromium (chrome-6) in drinking water. Unfortunately, the set maximum limit of 10 μg/L fails to protect human health, being 500 times the Public Health Goal of 0.02 μg/L. Community partners from the Central Coast and Central Valley previously made comments before the SWB urging them to fulfill their duty and protect the health of impacted communities.

“I grew up in a rural community in the outskirts of Merced where our water was contaminated with chrome-6 for many years before an MCL was established and now many communities like mine are faced with the same issue again. Over the last five years I’ve worked to advocate for protections against this contaminant,” says Mayra Hernandez, Community Advocacy Manager. “It’s disappointing that despite all this time we are still left with something that is not protecting community health.”

The SWB has long concluded chrome-6, a cancer-causing heavy metal, poses a widespread public health challenge to families across the state. Community leaders have spent years urging the SWB to put public health over profits when setting the legal limit for this harmful contaminant.

"We applaud the board's decision to take the unprecedented step of adopting a maximum contaminant level for this cancer-causing compound," says Nataly Escobedo Garcia, Ph.D., Water Policy Coordinator for Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. "However, the board has failed to detail why a lower number is not achievable, which would only further protect the health of Californians."

The Office of Environmental Health, Hazard and Assessment released a robust, peer-reviewed scientific analysis in 2011 which found that long-term exposure to chrome-6 in drinking water can lead to stomach and gastrointestinal cancer, harmful reproductive effects, and damage to liver and kidneys. The established limit by the SWB leaves dangerous amounts of this contaminant present in water supplies and allows some water systems to forgo treatment altogether. Small, rural, communities of color will be the ones continuing to bear the brunt of exposure with limited resources for replacement water and medical bills.

“For 20 years, polluters and some water systems have been hiding behind the argument that they have to protect ratepayers from the costs of chrome-6 treatment. However, at public hearing after public hearing ratepayers from impacted communities said that they wanted clean water and protection from the costs of cancer,” says Andria Ventura, Legislative and Policy Director for Clean Water Action. “It is disheartening to see the State Board parroting industry’s rhetoric and not listening to the people drinking contaminated water instead.”

While it was necessary for the SWB to finally set a limit on chrome-6, this action unfortunately does not do enough to protect the health of communities who will continue to suffer as a result. Community leaders and environmental justice allies will continue advocating to protect human health in spite of the decision made today.


Community Water Center (CWC) works to ensure that all communities have reliable access to safe, clean, and affordable water. Founded in 2006, CWC is a not-for-profit environmental justice organization, whose mission is to act as a catalyst for community-driven water solutions through education, organizing, and advocacy.
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Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability works alongside the most impacted communities in the San Joaquin Valley and Eastern Coachella Valley to advocate for sound policy and eradicate injustice to secure equal access to opportunity regardless of wealth, race, income, and place. Leadership Counsel focuses on issues like housing, land use, transportation, safe and affordable drinking water and climate change impacts on communities.
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Clean Water Action, founded during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972,  has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table.

Our Mission is to protect our environment, health, economic well-being and community quality of life. Clean Water Action organizes strong grassroots groups and coalitions, and campaigns to elect environmental candidates and to solve environmental and community problems.
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Press Contacts
Andria Ventura, Clean Water Action
LaTrice Harrison, Clean Water Action
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