A contaminant in Vacaville’s water supply exceeded new state standards, prompting the city to recently send out notices to residents about hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6.
“Our water system violated a drinking water standard,” the notice said, but went on to add that it is “not an emergency” or not an “immediate risk.”
Chromium-6, naturally occurring in the environment in this case, can be hazardous if consumed in large quantities.
However, city officials emphasize the notice was only a measure of precaution required by the State Water Resources Control Board, and that people do not need to drink bottled water.
Chromium levels in the city have not changed — only the level of the contamination risk; that’s because the state recently lowered the threshold by which cities such as Vacaville have to notify people about the chromium-6 in the water system.
“It is a carcinogen, so our concern is that people who are exposed to it over many, many years, that there would be an increased risk of cancer,” said Stefan Cajina, who emphasized that it would take decades before that risk.
Cajina advised people not to boil water, as that only causes water to dissipate without eliminating the risk from Chromium 6, which will be left behind, as it is not a bacteria or virus. He said home filtering systems may help, but it’s unclear how effective or reliable they are.
He also stated the recently reduced maximum contaminant level for the state is a very conservative estimate based on animal testing, rather than cancer data.
Still, residents like Herald Lowther are concerned.
“They tell you that everything’s safe,” Lowther said. “But how do you really know? People are different. How long does it take before it affects a person’s body?”
“We’ve been drinking Arrowhead water for a long time, even before we got the paper, because the water doesn’t taste good,” said Robert Leffel, another resident.
The city of Vacaville did not return phone calls from KCRA 3. The notice told residents it is “actively pursuing cost-effective treatment options to reduce chromium below maximum contaminant level.”
Cajina said Vacaville has three years to come into compliance.
Just like Vacaville, more than two dozen entities across California have exceeded the state’s water standard for chromium-6.