Toxic chemical creeping toward Colorado River

 

CALIFORNIA, ARIZONA



Chromium 6, the toxic element made infamous by the movie Erin Brockovich, is back in the news. In Southern California and central Arizona, water officials fear that the chemical might contaminate drinking water for some 20 million people, as it creeps toward the Colorado River from a pump station on a natural gas pipeline in the Mojave Desert.

Between 1951 and 1964, Pacific Gas and Electric dumped 6 million gallons per year of chromium-tainted water into a wash near Needles, Calif. The chromium was used to prevent corrosion at the Topock pump station, but the contaminated water leached into groundwater. Then it started seeping toward the Colorado River about 40 miles upstream of intakes for the Metropolitan Water District, which supplies Los Angeles and San Diego, and the Central Arizona Project, which supplies Phoenix and Tucson.

When inhaled, chromium 6 is known to cause cancer, but scientists disagree about whether the chemical is a carcinogen in drinking water. Nonetheless, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows no more than 100 parts per billion of chromium in drinking water, while California’s standard calls for less than 50 parts per billion. In December, tests revealed that water with chromium 6 concentrations of 111 parts per billion was only 125 feet from the Colorado River. About 600 feet from the river, concentrations reached 11,000 to 12,000 parts per billion.

Pacific Gas and Electric is still determining how to clean up the pollution permanently. In the meantime, in early March, the company began pumping 26,000 gallons of contaminated water per day from the Topock site. The Metropolitan Water District has also asked Pacific Gas and Electric to protect the Colorado River with an underground barrier 1,600 feet long and 100 foot deep, a project that could take a year to complete." Our focus is to prevent anything on-site from getting to the river," says Bob Muir, spokesman for the Metropolitan Water District. "It’s an imminent danger."

High Country News Classifieds
  • DIRECTOR - SONORAN DESERT INN & CONFERENCE CENTER
    The Sonoran Desert Inn & Conference Center is a non-profit lodging and event venue in Ajo, Arizona, located on the historic Curley School Campus. We...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field Seminars for adults: cultural and natural history of the Colorado Plateau. With guest experts, local insights, small groups, and lodge or base camp formats....
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....
  • HEALTH FOOD STORE IN NW MONTANA
    Turn-key business includes 2500 sq ft commercial building in main business district of Libby, Montana. 406.293.6771 /or [email protected]