Cancer-Causing Chemical Found in New Haven Water: Study

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It's not something you think would be in your tap water, but a national environmental group found out that the water in New Haven contains trace amounts of a cancer-causing chemical called hexavalent chromium or Chromium 6.

Chromium 6 was the chemical at the center of a medical lawsuit made famous by the movie “Erin Brockovich.” In the 1990s, Pacific Gas and Energy settled the suit with hundreds of Hinkley, California residents over Chromium 6 in the drinking water. The settlement was $333 million.

To put it in perspective, Hinkley’s water supply reportedly contained more than 5,000 parts per billion. In New Haven, the contamination is .08 parts per billion.

Still, Chromium 6 is still known as a carcinogen, and that's enough for people in New Haven to be worried.

"I want none of my kids to get sick like that," Emma Cruz said.

"I think it's something that's ridiculous. Our water should definitely be cleaner than that. We pay enough taxes where everything should be fine for us, I think," David Gilchrist, of New Haven, said.

The South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority denies that the chemical is in the New Haven water supply.

"Using the EPA required testing methods, we have not identified the presence of chromium in any of the water leaving our treatment facilities or within the water distribution system serving our customers," authority officials said in a news release.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not set a legal limit for chromium-6 in tap water and does not require water utilities to test for it, according to the Environmental Working Group.

"The Environmental Working Group claims to have collected a sample from the New Haven area which had a concentration of 0.08 parts per billion or 0.00008 parts per million of Chromium 6. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s existing Maximum Contaminant Level for chromium is 0.10 parts per million. That is equivalent to one-half drop of water in a 55-gallon barrel of water. The amount of Chromium 6 the Environmental Working Group claims to have found in a sample of New Haven’s water is well below the EPA’s maximum contaminant level for total chromium," the water authority said.

The State Department of Health and the EPA are looking into the Environmental Working Group study.

"I think they should investigate this water and where this contamination is coming from or whatever it may be," said Paul Miller, a New Haven resident.

The State Department of Health says it's too soon to tell if the trace amounts of Chromium 6 will amount to anything.

Still, that doesn't ease the mind of some New Haven residents.

"If that was able to be seen in our water, or found in our water, what else really is in it? Me, personally, I drink bottled water," said Gilchrist.

New Haven is one of 35 cities tested, 31 of them tested positive for Chromium 6 in the tap water.

Norman, Oklahoma had the highest levels, at 12.9 parts per billion.

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