Durbin, Kirk Announce Release of New U.S. EPA Guidelines for Monitoring Chromium 6 in Drinking Water

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will take advantage of new guidelines and U.S. EPA’s offer to provide technical assistance to the City of Chicago

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) today announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has issued guidance on how communities should test for and sample drinking water specifically for Chromium-6. Last month, the agency announced plans to issue this guidance following a meeting in Washington, DC between Administrator Lisa Jackson and ten U.S. Senators including Durbin and Kirk.


Also today, Durbin and Kirk received a response from the Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Doug Scott, to their letter requesting the agency work with U.S. EPA to increase testing of drinking water for the presence of Chromium-6. Scott explained that the agency will do that under the U.S. EPA’s new guidelines. He also indicated that the agency will take advantage of the additional resources that the U.S. EPA has made available to communities that were included in a recent Environmental Working Group study.


“In response to concerns, the EPA is stepping up its effort to help communities ensure their drinking water is safe,” said Durbin. “I encourage all Illinois communities that have concerns to work with the U.S. EPA and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to assess their risk and if needed, conduct the enhanced monitoring recommended today.”


“The EPA should encourage water systems to report chromium levels. I look forward to the swift completion of EPA's human health assessment on chromium-6,” said Kirk. “While these federal efforts are underway, families that wish to take early protective action can buy chromium-6 filters approved by the National Sanitation Foundation.”


Durbin and Kirk called a meeting last month in response to a December 20th article in the Chicago Tribune that referenced a study by the Environmental Working Group which found the amount of Chromium-6 in treated drinking to be 0.18 parts per billion, three times higher than a safety limit proposed by the state of California last year. The levels reported register well below the 100 parts per billion federal limit for total chromium in tap water, but mounting evidence suggests that Chromium-6 ingestion may be harmful to human health.


The EPA has also agreed to take the following actions in response to the Environmental Working Group’s study and last month’s meeting:


  • While provocative, the EWG report is a self-described “snapshot” in time and does not provide a full, long-term picture of the prevalence of Chromium-6 in our drinking water. EPA will work with state and local officials to better determine how wide-spread and prevalent this contaminant is.
  • EPA will also offer technical expertise and assistance to the communities cited in the EWG study with the highest levels of chromium. This assistance will include providing technical experts to work with water system operators and engineers to ensure the latest testing and monitoring is being utilized.
  • Once EPA’s Chromium-6 risk assessment is finalized, EPA will work quickly to determine if new standards need to be set. Based on the current draft assessment, which has yet to undergo scientific peer review, it is likely that EPA will tighten drinking water standards to address the health risks posed by Chromium-6.