A WIN FOR LOCAL WATER, JUDGE ORDERS CHANGE IN STATE CHROMIUM-6 STANDARDS

A WIN FOR LOCAL WATER, JUDGE ORDERS CHANGE IN STATE CHROMIUM-6 STANDARDS

In a ruling that will save Morongo Basin water agencies and their customers literally millions of dollars, a Superior Court judge ordered the State Water Resources Control Board to implement a new drinking water standard for chromium-6 that considers the limitations of disadvantaged communities. The court said the Department of Public Health failed to consider economic feasibility when, in early May 2014, it set the drinking water standard in California for chromium-6 to 10 parts per billion (ppb). This limit is equivalent to 10 drops of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, far stricter than the federal standard of 100 ppb. Twentynine Palms Water District General Manager Ray Kolisz said “We are pleased with the judge’s ruling and his sensitivity to disadvantaged communities. The protection of public health is our priority. Unfortunately, leaving the lower maximum contaminant level would leave us vulnerable to real threats while requiring significant water rate hikes for businesses and residents.”

For Morongo Basin Water suppliers, particularly Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms, the new standard saddled residents and businesses with unaffordable options to comply. The financial burden threatened to crowd out other threats to drinking water in the area, such as arsenic and nitrates.

In his May 5 ruling, Superior Court Judge Christopher Krueger said the Department failed to consider its own estimate that local water bills would go up by $5,630 per year, or $469.17 per month, to meet the new standard. He directed the Department to set the standard as close as economically feasible to the public health goal of 0.02 ppb.

Kolisz said, “State law requires the adoption of a standard for chromium-6, which was acknowledged by the court. By requiring the state to take affordability seriously in enacting a new standard, we will use the time wisely in looking for treatment systems that are affordable to our residents and businesses.”

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