Chromium Standard Revamping Flummoxes 29 Palms H2O District

The Twentynine Palms Water District is beset with the challenge of having to treat the locally-derived water supply it is completely dependent upon for supply its domestic and commercial customers.
At issue is anticipated action by the State of California that will reduce the amount of hexavalent chromium permitted in drinking water from the current 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion.
Hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6 or chromium VI, is a form of the metal chromium. Chromium is a naturally occurring element found in rocks, animals, plants, soil, and volcanic dust and gases. It comes in several different forms, including trivalent chromium and hexavalent chromium. Trivalent chromium is often referred to as chromium (III) and is proposed to be an essential nutrient for the body. Hexavalent chromium, while existing in nature, in most cases is produced by industrial processes.
Hexavalent chromium is used in textile dyes, leather tanning, pigments in dyes, including textile dyes, paints, primers, surface coatings, chromate conversion coatings, inks and plastics, wood preservation and anticorrosive products. It is used in the process of chromic acid electroplating. It can be derived through high-temperature industrial processes such as welding involving stainless steel or chromium, during which other forms of chromium are converted to a hexavalent state.All hexavalent chromium compounds are highly poisonous due to their oxidizing power as well as carcinogenic, particularly when airborne and inhaled, resulting with some frequency in lung cancer. Chromium VI exposure is also associated with cancer of the nose and nasal sinuses.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Pacific Gas & Electric constructed a natural gas pipeline that ran from Texas to California and which eventually reached Canada, through which, ultimately, in excess of three billion cubic feet of natural gas per day flowed. Compressor stations were established along the pipeline, ones which used natural gas to run the compressors used to repressurize the gas to push it through the pipeline. The compressed gas was cooled with water circulating through cooling towers. From 1952 until 1966, hexavalent chromium, was added to the cooling water to prevent corrosion to the cooling towers and the water circulation system. Some 86 miles from Twentynine Palms but yet in the Moajve Desert, at Hinkley, one such compressor station was built and commissioned in 1952. Wastewater from the cooling system was disposed of in unlined ponds at the Hinkley site. Beginning in 1964, after the danger of chromium 6 was recognized, the cooling water was treated to remove the chromium before it was disposed in the pools and a non-chromium-based additive was substituted into the cooling system in 1966. As of 1972 the cooling water was pumped into lined evaporation ponds. The ecological havoc that ensued, memorialized in the 1999 movie Erin Brockovich, would eventually turn Hinkley into a ghost town. Pacific Gas & Electric spent tens of millions of dollars over the course of more than two decades in an effort to remove the hexavalent chromium from the local water supply, essentially to no avail. While the overall level of chromium six was reduced, it did not descend to safe levels. Installing filtering systems on individual homes and importing water from elsewhere proved expensive and inadequate. Ultimately Pacific Gas & Electric bought out all, or virtually all of Hinkley’s remaining residents to allow them to move elsewhere.
Some distance east from Hinkley across the Mojave, in Twentyine Palms, the problems from Chromium 6 have been far less pronounced, but nevertheless ones that local water officials have had to be regardful of. District officials do constant monitoring of water quality. While water in the Twentynine Palms area does exhibit elevated chromium VI levels, it remains below, even well below, the current 50 parts per billion threshold for all forms of chromium – including hexavalent chromium, trivalent chromium or other chromium isotopes that would render the water unsafe for human consumption per the state standards.
The California Water Resources Control Board is contemplating moving away from specifying total chromium in making its safe indication level of the contaminant to one focusing on chromium 6 alone, reducing the threshold saturation level of that specific type of chromium to 10 parts per billion.
The State Water Board held a hearing under the Administrative Procedure Act on August 2 on the proposed maximum contaminant level for hexavalent chromium in drinking water. The board is tentatively set to consider amending its table for maximum contaminant levels for hazardous inorganic chemicals in which the conversion specifying chromium VI at 10 parts per billion over total chromiumat 50 parts per billion after all of the draft comments on the change from the public and governmental entities that were due on August 18 have been considered. That board vote is likely to come before the end of the year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits the total chromium content in drinking water as opposed to chromium 6.
It is unclear what percentage of the chromium contamination in the wells for that portion of the desert originates from from natural sources.
There is a host of other contaminants present in desert drinking water. Among the substances regulated by the state are are aluminum, antimony, arsenic, asbestos, barium, beryllium, cyanide, fluoride, mercury, nickel, nitrate, nitrite, perchlorate, selenium and thallium.
In Wonder Valley, which is roughly nine miles frim Twentynine Palms, a serious problem with not only chromium but arsenic and fluoride in water wells has been noted for some time.
In September 2017, an analysis was done on water drawn from the well where San Bernardino County Fire Station 45 obtained its water. It was discovered that the water was contaminated with arsenic, hexavalent chromium and fluoride at levels approaching or exceeding 1,000 times the threshold for each deemed safe for human use and consumption. On September 22, 2017 the county shut the fire station down, relocating the crew to the Twentynine Palms fire station. The reason given was the threat to the health of the firefighters.

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