Posts Tagged ‘hexavalent chromium’

Cap and delay; the chromium tide. A mid-summer Smogtown roundup

Monday, July 18th, 2011

* California/West Coast greenhouse gas cap and trade on hold until 2013. Big surprise, here. The idea is controversial, poorly understood, largely unproven and being implemented during a historic election. Got juice?

- L.A. Times coverage:

“Facing continued litigation, California officials will delay enforcement of the state’s carbon-trading program until 2013, state Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols announced Wednesday. The delay in the cap-and-trade program, slated to take effect in January, is proposed because of the “need for all necessary elements to be in place and fully functional,” she said. But in testimony before a state Senate committee,Nichols said the postponement would not affect the stringency of the program or the amount of greenhouse gases that industries will be forced to cut by the end of the decade. Carbon-market executives mostly shrugged at the news. The air board “has given firms a breather, not a pass,” said Josh Margolis, chief executive of CantorCO2e, an emissions-trading company. “Companies will need to make the same reductions, but they will face a steeper slope.” The cap-and-trade program, championed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a centerpiece of the state’s landmark effort to cut planet-warming gases to 1990 levels by 2020. It accounts for a fifth of the planned cuts under the state’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act. Under the program, 600 industrial facilities, including cement manufacturers, electrical plants and oil refineries, would cap their emissions in 2012, with that limit gradually decreasing over eight years. Several neighborhood organizations and environmental justice groups that focus on local pollution are fighting the program in court, saying it would allow industrial plants to avoid installing the strictest pollution controls. A San Francisco judge ruled in March that the air board had not sufficiently analyzed alternatives to the trading program, as required under California’s Environmental Quality Act. The agency appealed the decision, and an appeals court ruled last week that officials could continue working on the regulation pending the court decision. The board is drafting an analysis of alternatives, which is to be considered for adoption Aug. 24, Nichols said … In the wake of the failure of national climate legislation in Congress last year, California’s program would be North America’s biggest carbon market, three times larger than a utility-only system in the northeastern U.S. By 2016, about $10 billion in carbon allowances are expected to be traded through the California market, which is slated to link to similar markets in several Canadian provinces …”

* Chromium-six polluting L.A. County’s wells in addition to local cities. No cause for panic, but one for focused alarm.

- From the L.A. Daily News:

“The tap water in at least four Los Angeles County facilities, including two in Lancaster, has levels of contaminants such as arsenic and lead that exceed federal and state recommendations, according to a new county report released Thursday. The study by the county Department of Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures looked at the drinking water in 765 county facilities, including county jails, fire stations and wells. While it found that several hundred facilities had detectable levels of contaminants such as chromium 6, arsenic and lead, four of them were above the “maximum contaminant level” set by state and federal agencies. Those sites included Challenger Memorial Youth Center and a county-owned well at a trailer park, both in Lancaster. The report was the first time in 10 years that such an evaluation of water quality at county facilities was undertaken. County officials said that while they take the findings seriously, they urged the public not to panic … Of the 765 county facilities that were tested, about 43 percent exceeded the state’s “public health goal” for hexavalent chromium, 84 percent exceeded the PHG for arsenic, while 31 percent exceeded the PHG for lead. But officials said that public health goal is a very conservative target and failing to meet it does not necessarily mean the water is dangerous. Of greater concern are the facilities that exceeded the “maximum contaminant level” for certain pollutants. The study detected concentrations of arsenic at 70.4 parts per billion – seven times the federal and state maximum contaminant level – in samples from a restroom faucet at Challenger. It also found that Challenger, and several other facilities, had high levels of hexavalent chromium — aka chromium 6 — a heavy metal that gained notoriety in the film “Erin Brockovich.” The juvenile facility was found to have 12.2 ppb of hexavalent chromium. State officials have yet to set a maximum contaminant level for that particular chemical, but they said the “public health goal” is 0.2 ppb … ”

* Speaking of pollution victims, few place can lay claim like Kettleman, California. Looks like the natives are taking matters into their own hands now, and there’s real parallels to anguished mother in the early days of L.A.’s smog fight.

- From the L.A. Times story:

“Central and Southern California community groups filed a complaint about toxic waste dumps with the Environmental Protection Agency 17 years ago and never received a response. Tired of waiting, they have filed a federal lawsuit … Kettleman City, Buttonwillow and rural areas of Imperial County are home to the only toxic waste dumps in the state. Grassroots community groups say that locating the dumps only in low-income and predominantly Latino areas violates Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits any recipient of federal money from discriminating on the basis of race or national origin …”


* Don’t even get us going on how disingenuous until now the state’s efforts at popularizing solar power has been with homeowners. Progress now, or perhaps the truth bubble emerging of people’s hunger to do more than themselves? You decide.

- From the L.A. Daily News:

“Due to public demand, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power canceled a single public meeting about its solar energy programs and replaced it with four workshops, the utility announced today …”

- The big boys are already reaping the savings, though. Thank God for Google. It just created a $280 pocket change fund. Link

* Some things never change: a conservative group trying to undercut hard-won environmental rules, state by state. They have fans, too. Link

Chromium-six linkfest

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

 Revelations that a growing plume of chromium-six-laced groundwater is spreading through L.A.’s acquifers and soil hasn’t captured the attention it deserves in a summer of high-anxiety about Afghanistan, the endless recession, the oil spill in the Gulf, and, of course, Lindsay Lohan’s rebab. The highly toxic industrial chemical has forced the L.A. Department of Water and Power to quietly close fifty-five wells after long downplaying the problem. Chromium-six, a.k.a. chrome-six and hexavalent chromium, owes much of its presence here to Cold War military production and plating operations. Until recently, L.A., Burbank and Glendale dealt with its chromium-six tainted water by dumping it in the Los Angeles River or blending it with clean supplies, because it is a difficult chemical to filter at traditional treatment facilities.

I’ve writing about the subject for close to sixteen years, and figured I’d post those stories from latest to oldest so those affected by this under-the-radar, oft-lethal chemical can understand its history without alarmism or apathy.

* “Clearing the waters: New charges point out dearth of prosecutions in chromium 6 cases of contaminated groundwater - Los Angeles CityBeat, November 18, 2004.

* Impossible Choices: while cleaning up solvents in L.A.’s water supply, did regulators pull another potentially deadly chemical into the pipes?” - Los Angeles CityBeat, July 8, 2004.

* Dropping Science: chromium-six is a known carcinogen, but the implosion of a blue-ribbon panel of scientists means we still don’t know how much is safe in L.A.’s drinking water” - Los Angeles CityBeat, June 3, 2004.

* “Troubled Waters: chromium-six is the same poison made infamous by Erin Brockovich. Now it poses a ‘clear and present danger’ to the water supply of Los Angeles” - Los Angeles CityBeat, April 22, 2004.

* “DWP Failed to Inform Council on Tainted Water”Los Angeles Times, September 15, 2000 

Calls for Reducing Chromium in Water Go Unheeded - Los Angeles Times, August, 20, 2000.

* “Lockheed Fears Persist: Burbank-Area Residents Dispute Cancer-Incident Survey” - Daily News of Los Angeles, November 3, 1996.

* “Memos Detail Lockheed Settlement”Daily News of Los Angeles, September 30, 1996.

* Lockheed Quagmire Grows: Contractor Wants Pentagon to Pay Hunk of Toxic Cleanup Tab” - Daily News of Los Angeles, September 15, 1996.

* “Toxic Law May Have Swayed Lockheed Case” – Daily News of Los Angeles, August 26, 1996.

* Lockheed Resolves Toxic Claims: Residents near Burbank B-1 plan to receive $60-million” - Daily News of Los Angeles, August 4, 1996.

Been under deadline for new book, so lot’s of ground and air to make up.

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

* The startling picture of smogged out L.A. was the cover shot for a Wired magazine feature story about Southern California’s epic fight for blue skies against it’s own people’s auto addiction. They were gracious to highlight our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, and interviewed me. Here’s a little blurb:

“… People in Los Angeles were very proud of their air,” said Chip Jacobs, one of the authors of Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Smog in Los Angeles. “They said that L.A. was the land of pure air, and that moving there could cure tuberculosis and alcoholism. They thought there had to be one simple answer.” The day after the first big smog, city officials pointed to the Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Street Plant as the source of the thick cloud. The facility manufactured an ingredient in synthetic rubber called butadiene. Public pressure temporarily shut down the Aliso Street Plant, but the smog episodes continued to get even worse. Undeterred, Los Angeles Mayor Fetcher Bowron announced in August that there would be “an entire elimination” of the problem within four months. But the search for the culprit of the “gas attacks” — and the ensuing battle to curb the culprit’s emissions — was just beginning …”

* An interesting MSNBC piece about scientists’ progress in creating artificial lungs. Gosh, L.A. would be the perfect test city.

” … Nearly 400,000 people die of lung diseases each year in the United States alone, according to the American Lung Association, and lung transplants are far too rare to offer much help. But how to replicate these spongy organs? Niklason’s team stripped an adult rat’s lung down to its basic structural support system, its scaffolding, to see if it would be possible to rebuild rather than start completely from scratch …”

* For now, forget using the prospect of a green-jobs bonanza to convince Congress and the American public to support the national climate bill stalling in Washington, D.C.  From the L.A. Times blog.

* Speaking of cap-and-trade, California and other regions, though not the first ones envisioned, may enact their own greenhouse market. Good luck getting voters to support it in this jobless recovery or keeping fraud at bay. From the L.A. Times story.

“As the nation’s most populous state and the world’s eighth-largest economy, California wields significant influence. International and national controls are needed to curb global warming, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday, “but California and the rest of the Western Climate Initiative partners are not waiting to take action.”

” … The Western initiative would cut emissions 15% below 2005 levels. It would transition the region to “a green economy that will reduce our dependency on oil, increase our energy security and create jobs and investment now,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. The trading program would allow companies to meet targets by purchasing less expensive “offsets” from forests, agriculture or garbage dumps when companies in those sectors store carbon dioxide beyond what they would have emitted in the normal course of business …”

* I’ve probably written a dozen stories about L.A.’s unheralded crisis with deadly hexavalent chromium (otherwise known as “chrome-six,” or the Erin Brockovich chemical) creeping and moving through its acquifiers and land. In 2004, I did a series about it for Southland Publshing and in 2000 I covered the subject for the L.A. Times. Unfortunately, the problem is getting worse. Here’s the L.A. Daily News coverage (and the Daily News deserves lots of credit for its mid-1990s stories on chrome-six related to Lockheed Corp; I was lucky to have on the team that wrote about it). With all the focus on greenhouse gases and the drought, we’ve all forgotten about a deadly industrial poison spreading through wells and leaving local officials with tricky decisions to make.

Melting glaciers, new EPA smog rules, clean(er) energy, Central American pesticides, and another eco-golden oldie, chromium/TCE pollution

Thursday, August 6th, 2009


People, we have lots of ground to cover. Let’s get started.

From the Los Angeles Times story

“In an effort to clean the air along the nation’s choked highways, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a major regulation to control nitrogen dioxide, a key factor in respiratory illness …”

Consistent with other GW news of late, scientists are discovering the glaciers are melting faster than previously believed. Story link:

“Global warming has melted glaciers in the United States at a rapid and accelerating rate over the last half-century, increasing drought risks and contributing to rising sea levels, the federal government will report today based on data from a 50-year study of glaciers in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

Federal officials say the study includes the longest records of glacial melt recorded in North America …”

Some good news on solar power. It’s the mirrors. Story link.

Very interesting tale of tort action, agribusiness, Nicaragua and public health involving the pesticide DBCP.

Lastly, a terrific piece of environmental reporting about health concerns connected to a former NASA site. One of the suspect chemicals is hexavalent chromium, the so-called “Erin Brockovich chemical” that I’ve written extensively about over the years. Link.