Erin Brockovich, an environmental health advocate, and Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, are calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection to quickly to set a national standard, known as a maximum contaminant level, or MCL, for the carcinogen found in millions of Americans’ tap water.
In a joint letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Brockovich and Cook wrote:
We write with deep concern about this continued delay. It is clear that the delay is sowing confusion among state and local regulators, utilities, and the public about how much hexavalent chromium is safe in drinking water. This confusion is resulting in many Americans’ exposure to unregulated levels of hexavalent chromium that federal, state and independent scientists agree pose health hazards.
A top health official in North Carolina resigned when Gov. Pat McCrory and his staff sought to retract “do-not-drink” warnings directed at some residents whose tap water comes from wells likely tainted by hexavalent chromium from nearby Duke Energy coal-burning facilities, said Cook.
The situation in North Carolina is, in part, a result of the absence of a nationwide health-protective EPA standard, said Brockovich and Cook:
States like North Carolina, where industrial byproducts like coal ash increase the risk of hexavalent chromium contamination, need a federal mandate to set strong, health-protective standards for levels of the contaminant in drinking water. Without it, states will continue to use inconsistent and potentially unsafe guidelines, and leave citizens confused about whether their drinking water is safe.
A report issued by the EWG in December 2010 found hexavalent chromium in tap water in 31 of 35 American cities.