News Feature | August 11, 2017

Water Districts Sue Military For $1.4 Billion Over Hexavalent Chromium

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

A major battle over funding has broken out after a shuttered Air Force base seven miles outside of Sacramento contaminated groundwater supplies in the area.

“In a sweeping legal fight that could affect drinking water supplies for thousands of Sacramento-area residents, two water districts near the old McClellan Air Force Base are suing the federal government for $1.4 billion to clean up the cancer-causing chemical hexavalent chromium from the area’s groundwater supplies,” The Sacramento Bee reported.

“At issue is whether the chemical, made famous by the work of Erin Brockovich, originated from the nearby site of the former McClellan Air Force Base, which was designated as a federal Superfund site in 1987 after 326 contaminated sites were identified for cleanup,” The Weather Channel reported.

The Sacramento Suburban Water District and the Rio Linda Elverta Community Water District sued the Air Force as well as companies connected to chromium products.

Sacramento Suburban Water District officials say they are providing safe water, but that they need funding “to clean up polluted wells, install treatment equipment and replace wells that have been decommissioned because of the presence of the chemical,” the report said.

The water district’s lawsuit said: “Sacramento Suburban seeks to recover the substantial costs necessary to protect the public and restore its damaged drinking water supply.”

The military’s perspective, per the report: “The Air Force has consistently denied responsibility for chromium 6 being present in groundwater around the base, which operated from 1936 through 2001, when it was converted to a business park. Air Force officials denied the claim from Rio Linda Elverta in a May 9 letter, and the district sued in federal court in Sacramento on June 30.”

California has the most stringent rules for this contaminant in the nation — tougher than the U.S. EPA.

“The EPA currently regulates chromium 6 as part of the total chromium drinking water standard. New health effects information has become available since the original standard was set, and EPA is reviewing this information to determine whether there are new health risks that need to be address,” the agency says.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.