News Alert: Channel 2 investigates cancer-causing chemical in Houston's drinking water. By Debbie Strauss - Special Projects Producer , Haley Hernandez - Health Reporter Posted: 2:22 PM, November 22, 2016Updated: 11:08 AM, November 24, 2016
A cancer-causing chemical made infamous by Erin Brockovich, has been found at high levels in Houston's tap water. The chemical is called hexavalent chromium or chromium 6.
"The city of Houston's water ranks about third in the country in terms of high level of chromium 6," said Bill Walker, managing editor at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group.
But just how high is the chromium 6 in Houston's tap water? In California-- the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, indicates cancer rates start to rise at a concentration of 0.02 parts per billion (ppb)
"To put that in perspective, a part per billion is roughly one drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool," Walker said.
According to EWG's data from the city of Houston, Houston's average is 0.75 ppb.
Why is chromium 6 so dangerous? "It could increase your chance or your risk to get cancer," said Dr. Qilin Li, with Rice University, adding, "It could also cause damage to liver and kidney."
Chromium is found naturally in rocks, plants, soils, volcanic dust and animals. Chromium 6 occurs naturally in the environment from the erosion of natural chromium deposits. It can also be produced by industrial processes.
"Chromium 6 ... can come from industrial pollution, such as electroplating industry and could come from mining," Li said.
Channel 2 Investigates looked even closer at the numbers across Harris County and found the nine highest samples, from 2013-2015, all came back to the exact zip code, 77099 In some cases the rates were over 6.0. That's 300 times the recommended health level set in California of 0.02 ppb.
9007 Dairy View Lane, 77099: 4.9 ppb & 5.4 ppb
12811 Covey, 77099: 4.4 ppb & 6.3 ppb
10630 S. Kirkwood 77099: 4.3 ppb & 4.0 ppb
10301 Sun City Court 77099: 4.9 ppb
10003 S. Kirkwood 77099: 5.1 ppb & 6.7 ppb
TECH TALK – CHROMIUM JUST FOUND IN HOUSTON TAP WATER
By Mark Anderson
Well guess what? 77099 is the Zip Code of Waterworld USA.
So how does this chromium end up being concentrated in one small neighborhood zip code and coming up in (5) ground water pumping stations?
This is called a Hot Spot.
So this is an interesting “Who Done It” Mystery!
Let it be known that the Houston area is rife with illegal waste dumping. You will be REALLY surprised if you look at this map, which is only the tip of the iceberg, because it does not include chemical waste.
Another very common situation I am quite familiar with, is where a tanker truck (6500 Gallons) will illegally discharge acidic chromium waste onto the ground or into a ditch late at night, so that they do not have to pay the extremely high disposal fee it takes to properly dispose of it at an EPA licensed Hazardous Waste Treatment Facility. We call them Midnight Dumpers and often illegal dumpers will do it repeatedly, not once. Another common reality is that an old landfill (or dumping pit) full of metal drums containing hazardous waste is leaking and leaching into the ground water supply. This is happening all across America, in every single populated county. Sometimes these “landfills” are unofficial, unauthorized, and forgotten. Another source is old abandoned factories and abandoned industrial sites– old properties formerly occupied by factories that lie empty and abandoned for years if not decades because they are nearly unsellable due to contamination. I have investigated many of these sites and collected samples - and not once was there a sign posted warning the local residents to periodically test their drinking water or to filter it due to even “potential” contamination, let alone known contamination (for example: this was an old lead factory or an herbicide factory). Often they end up getting “donated” to a local community or organization so as to shift all the risk and cleanup liability (such as EPA Cleanup liability) from the donator to the recipient. There are many famous and notorious examples of this…with disastrous results for the taxpayer (losing millions of dollars) and the nearby residents getting an exposure through soil, wind, or water. More common (>95% of the time) is the Owner will empty out the company bank accounts, file for bankruptcy, and walk away leaving the expensive toxic cleanup for the taxpayers. Military properties are pretty notorious because they were “EPA Exempt” for many decades, and always dumped all their chemical waste on site into unlined earthen pits scooped out by a bulldozer.
Here is an example of a SE Houston Superfund Site at the intersection of Beamer Road and Dixie Farm Road, about 16 miles (26 km) southeast of downtown Houston, and adjacent to the Dixie Oil Processors Superfund site.
From Wikipedia: “The 58-acre Brio Refinery site was home to several chemical companies between 1957 and 1982, when the owner, Brio Refinery Inc. declared bankruptcy and ceased operations. During that period, the site had been used for copper recovery and petroleum re-refining, typically the processing of tar, sludge, and other residue from oil tanks and other sources, as also occurred at the adjacent Dixie Oil Processors site. Throughout the years, at both sites, unprocessed petroleum and waste materials were stored in 12 large earthen pits, ranging from 14 to 32 feet deep and extending into porous soil and, thus, groundwater. Leaks from these pits also spilled into a local drainage ditch, Mud Gulley, and subsequently, via the adjoining Clear Creek, into Galveston Bay. By the late 1980s, the EPA had detected copper, vinyl chloride, 1,1,2-trichloroethane, fluorene, styrene, ethylbenzene, toluene, benzene and other toxic chemicals, including numerous chlorinated volatile organic compounds (VOCs), in the air and groundwater.”
From Wikipedia: “Approximately 300,000,000 lb of hexavalent chromium were produced in 1985. Additional hexavalent chromium compounds are chromium trioxide and various salts of chromate and dichromate, among others. Hexavalent chromium is used in textile dyes, wood preservation, anti-corrosion products, chromate conversion coatings, and a variety of niche uses. Industrial uses of hexavalent chromium compounds include chromate pigments in dyes, paints, inks, and plastics; chromates added as anticorrosive agents to paints, primers, and other surface coatings; and chromic acid electroplated onto metal parts to provide a decorative or protective coating.”
I know that the familiar green roofing shingles use dichromate (surprise!) as the green pigment, so huge piles of this in illegal dumps can affect the ground water quality, and the dichromate is highly soluble in water. Railroad ties and telephone poles were also treated with chromium solutions at one point (chromated copper arsenate).
So why the big deal over 5-7 ppb of Hexavalent Chromium?
Chromium is unique in that this is one highly toxic pollutant that has been incredibly tied up in bureaucracy, studies, “studies of studies” and “evaluations of studies” for nearly 50 years with little progress in terms of protecting the public health by lowering the MCL Regulatory Level. This is a huge red flag clue that “big money” in the chromium industry is behind those delays. The other thing that makes chromium unique is the ridiculously high and outdated MCL Level of 100 ppb. This is definitely serving the polluters and not the public health. So far only the California State EPA has said [enough is enough] and has exercised their right to better protect their citizens by imposing a safer and more reasonable MCL Level of 0.02 ppb. That’s a huge difference. A 5000x difference. In the local case of the 77099 zip code in Houston, 6.7 ppb is 335x higher than what is allowed in California.
What this tells us is that just because drinking water is “in compliance” with federal drinking water standards for chromium, this is certainly not a guarantee that it is safe or healthy to drink. The research says otherwise.
In fact medical scientists have done a lot of research on what hexavalent chromium does to the human body, so this is no mystery. This research has been known for decades. Just for starters, it is a “potent cell toxin” and a carcinogen. It also causes Oxidative Stress, which I call “the mother of all chronic diseases”. Below are a few research links out of thousands so you can see for yourself the gravity of the chromium situation:
What I have noticed is that whenever the news talks about one chemical in the water, there are usually more than one to be concerned about. A perfect example is Flint, MI. They have a whole lot more contaminants than just Lead in the water, but all you heard about on the news week after week was Lead.
BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY: Waterworld USA Dealers may wish to reach out to businesses, restaurants, gas stations, soda fountains, churches, etc in this 77099 zip code and offer them an RO system.
Also remember that Waterworld USA also offers different levels of drinking water Lab Testing for a modest fee.