Report: Chemical linked to cancer present in drinking water in the East

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) sheds light on a potentially dangerous chemical found in drinking water across the country named Chromium-6.

Airborne Chromium-6 has been linked to lung cancer, and a study by the National Toxicology Program, which injected mice with water containing the chemical, showed elevated risks of cancer.

Chromium-6 currently is one of the chemicals unregulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“It means that we have some evidence to suggest they may be associated with adverse health outcomes, but we don’t have a sufficient scientific database to make a decision,” said Jamie DeWitt, a toxicology specialist at ECU.

In the East, the amount of Chromium-6 varied by county. Pitt County had the highest percentage of water tests with some trace of the chemical (62%), followed by Carteret County (50%), Onslow County (44%), Beaufort and Lenoir Counties (37%), and Craven County (28%).

The good news is that all levels found in the East were well below federal regulations, which cap the amount of Chromium-6 allowed in water under the Clean Water Act.

At GUC, constant tests and monitors are in place to ensure the safety of water for the more than 95,000 GUC customers.

The highest water test showing Chromium-6 at GUC occurred on May 14, 2015, with a reading of .23 parts per billion at the C. Horne Water Treatment Plant.

Anthony Whitehead, GUC’s Water Quality Manager, said any traces of the chemical have been extremely low. He said to eliminate it all together would be difficult.

“Some of it is naturally occurring, but there’s also some processes such as wood preservation that could cause it to enter into our water supply,” Whitehead said.

The EPA continues to look into the health impacts of Chromium-6, and could make it a regulated chemical at any time.

According to the EWG study, more than 200 million Americans are exposed to water with Chromium-6, with 75% of samples having test levels at .03ppb or higher.

In the East, the highest level recorded between 2013 and 2015 occurred in Lenoir County on April 20, 2015 at a well operated by the Deep Run Water Corporation.

Across the country, Oklahoma, Arizona and California had the highest overall levels of Chromium-6. California is the only state in the country to regulate the chemical.

To read GUC’s full water quality report, click here.

To view the EWG’s interactive Chromium-6 map, click here.

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