James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/26/2011 03:11:01 PM PST

California’s U.S. Senators have introduced a bill that would require the federal Environmental Protection Agency to set limits on the amount of hexavalent chromium in drinking water.

Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats, introduced the bill Tuesday. It would require the EPA, within one year of the bill’s passage, to set a limit on the amount of hexavalent chromium or chromium 6 – a chemical thought to cause cancer – in drinking water.

“There is no place for dangerous cancer-causing substances in our drinking water,” Boxer said in a statement Wednesday. “This bill is a major step forward in ensuring that children in California, and across the country, are protected from toxic chemicals, such as chromium 6, in the drinking water supply.”

In a letter sent to the EPA in December, Boxer and Feinstein said they planned to introduce legislation calling for the agency to act.

The EPA has a goal for the level of chromium in drinking water, but it’s not enforceable. The Boxer-Feinstein bill calls for an enforceable limit.

In San Bernardino County, high levels of chromium 6 turned up more than a decade ago in the High Desert community of Hinkley, near Barstow. In a case made famous by the film “Erin Brockovich,” Hinkley residents successfully sued utility company Pacific Gas and Electric for contaminating local groundwater.

The chromium 6 problem in Hinkley bubbled to the surface again last year. In August, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board determined that chromium 6 pollution in Hinkley had spread.

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