Environmental groups sue Calif. agency

Michael P. Tremoglie Aug. 20, 2012, 10:55am

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) - The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group announced Tuesday that they suing the California Department of Public Health.

The groups say the department failed safe drinking water standards for hexavalent chromium. The two environmental activist groups said this was supposed to be done eight years ago.

"Millions of Californians are drinking toxic water today due to government neglect," said Nicholas Morales, attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The State has not protected our drinking water supply from this carcinogen, so we're going to the courts to put a stop to it."

EWG said it did an analysis of CDPH's water quality testing records from for the period 2000-2011. According to the group, this analysis indicated that about one-third of the more than 7,000 drinking water sources sampled were contaminated with hexavalent chromium at levels that exceed safe limits. These water sources impact an estimated 31 million Californians, according to the group.

The California Legislature mandated in 2001 the CDPH adopt a standard by Jan. 1, 2004. The lawsuit, filed in the California Superior Court of Alameda, contends the delay is unjustified and it must rapidly proceed to finalize the standard.

The California EPA's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment announced a hexavalent chromium in drinking water objective in July 2011. The department, says NRDC and EWG, has not taken the necessary steps for setting a "Maximum Contaminant Level" - the maximum concentration of a chemical that is allowed in public drinking water systems - for hexavalent chromium.

The plan to take several more years to finalize a rulemaking is an outrage to the two environmental activist groups.

CDPH spokesman Ken August said there are no timelines for developing a standard. The bureau is in the process of a cost-benefit analysis.

The American Chemistry Council said in 2011 that a Public Health Goal by California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which said that hexavalent chromium is dangerous, was in error. The Council said in a letter to the OEHHA, "The (Public Health Goal) is significantly flawed."

More News