SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A judge has struck down California's water treatment standards for Chromium-6 in a ruling stating it's not feasible for low income communities to comply.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Christopher Krueger ruled May 5 the state's Chromium-6 standard must consider the economic ramifications of treatment.
Maritza Martinez, Coachella's public works director said, "This ruling buys us some time and could potentially make it less costly for us and our rate payers to comply with state guidelines."
Chromium-6 is a naturally occurring mineral, found in groundwater throughout the Coachella Valley. It's a by-product of some local rocks as they decompose.
High concentrations of the chemical in the Hinkley, California drinking water supply led to a lawsuit against PG&E and a popular 2000 movie "Erin Brockovich," starring Julia Roberts.
California had required drinking water not exceed the Chromium-6 standard of 50 parts per billion, but the state revised its standard in 2014.
The new maximum contaminant level was set at 10 parts per billion, 10 times tougher than the federal standard.
Krueger's ruling sided with the Solano County Taxpayers Association and the California Manufacturers & Technology Association.
Martinez says court documents suggest ratepayers in small, low income communities could see water bills rise by hundreds of dollars a month if their water districts need to purchase new equipment to comply with the stringent Chromium-6 guidelines.
The new standards were set to take effect by Jan. 1, 2020.
The Coachella Valley Water District was set to build a costly series of Chromium-6 treatment facilities at 29 of it's water wells, but called off the plan on Oct. 25, 2016.
On that day, boardmembers launched a pilot study to examine what was thought to be a much less costly and equally effective alternative treatment process. Results from the water district's pilot study will be available in Mid-2017.
The original treatment plan was cited as among the key reasons for recent water customer rate increases.
Board members said they believe the alternative process, Reduction-Coagulation-Filtration, has the potential to meet the state's new treatment requirement at a substantially lower cost, while being less obtrusive to residents and with fewer negative environmental impacts.
A staff report suggested the alternative plan would save the district $135 million dollars in planned facilities, which would no longer be needed. It would also save $5 million a year in additional operating costs. The original plan would cost $10 million a year.
The State Department of Public Health must now withdraw its current guideline for Chromium-6, and replace it with a new plan that takes into account the economic feasibility of compliance.
You can find more information on Chromium-6 at www.Coachella.org or http://www.cvwd.org/159/Chromium-6.