We Told You So, California; Setting low chromium levels is costing cities and towns.

Columns From: Products Finishing, , from Products Finishing magazine

Posted on: 4/1/2014

Now come several California municipalities who are—gasp!—shell-shocked by the sticker price of what it is going to cost to keep hex chrome out of their water systems.

We’re not ones to sit around and say, “We told you so,” but in the case of all those California communities that screamed for lower levels of chromium in their water sources, well, we kinda told you so, didn’t we?

If you recall, California’s health department lowered the acceptable standard for all chromium levels in drinking water to a minute 50 parts per billion, which was half the allowed level by federal guidelines. This included hexavalent and tri-chrome, the latter of which is needed by the human body.

California is now considering lowering the level to 10 ppb for hex chrome, which may be a wee too stringent. Now, everyone and their grandma wants and deserves clean drinking water, and hexavalent chromium is known to be bad for anyone who chooses to gulp it down with some cheese and crackers. We’ll grant all the environmentalists that point, for sure.

But let’s just say that some of the more outlandish environmentalist groups out West cried to their local and state representatives and congress people that the number had to be lower, lower and by golly, lower.

So last year, the California health department settled on trying to move the needle to 10 ppb, despite the fact that every decent scientist within earshot told them that probably wasn’t a smart move and would cost a lot of coinage to enforce, mainly in water treatment plants and new equipment.

Lo and behold, now come several California municipalities who are—gasp!—shell-shocked by the sticker price of what it is going to cost to keep hex chrome out of their water systems.

For example, when the fine folks on the Watsonville city council heard a report on what it would take to get into compliance with the new regulations they claimed they so desperately needed, well, let’s just say a few of them fell to the floor.

The price tag? A cool $26 million just to get new equipment into the water treatment center to start. After that, tack on an additional $1.7 million a year to keep it running.

And who will pay for this noble deed to meet California’s asinine 10 ppb chromium level? Well, the fine folks in Watsonville and all the surrounding small towns and cities who watched this madness from their living rooms and didn’t bother to stop it.

It’s estimated that Watsonville residents will see a 78 percent jump in their water bills. And that will be a huge hit, especially since about 20 percent of the community lives below the poverty line. You have to wonder what $26 million could do to help the downtrodden in that community if it wasn’t all going to stop tri-chrome from getting in your body like it wants and needs.

Mind you, California is the state that based much of its decisions in this matter on a disputed research study on data collected from Chinese workers who drank hex chromium contaminated water. Watsonville doesn’t have drinking water on the level of those in China, nor do most parts of the U.S. Not even close, but California deemed that study relevant to its decision.

Meanwhile, in the beautiful community of Glendale, Calif., the annual budget for researching the hex chrome matter is now at $11 million a year, after their city council approved a bump of over $1 million more to study the matter further.

Mind you, Glendale has been studying the hex chrome issue for 13 years, so we can safely assume they’ve pumped over $100 million down the rat hole somewhere. They’ve uncovered some new techniques for removing some traces of hex chrome from their water system, but nothing ground breaking.

Still, the city is looking at about another $27 million to get a system in place to meet California’s ultra-low standard. Even as many cities like Glendale look at containing costs by examining fire and police cutbacks, this is an unfortunate expense they will have to incur because of state officials making another not-so-wise decision.

One of the council members in Glendale thinks that all this money spent on a problem that is probably overblown to begin with would be a great way to earn some kudos for his city. Councilman Ara Najarian has asked the city’s water department and administrative staff to check to see if they can sell naming rights to the process they discovered, which they claim can reduce hex levels to just 5 ppb. “Why don’t we call this the ‘Glendale Treatment?’” Najarian asked at a recent council meeting. “You’ve got the Heimlich Maneuver.”

Why not? What better way after fleecing the public on this ridiculous escapade than to try to make some bucks off their broken backs, too.

And how is Glendale proposing to get to this lower hex chrome level? With millions in new equipment and by—another gasp! —purchasing purified water from another source and mixing it in with its own supply, sort of like how Uncle Hank waters down his bourbon.

Now why didn’t we think of that?

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