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EPA Drilling for Contaminent Could Cost $27 Million

The Environmental Protection Agency drilled its first hole about 250 feet below ground in Burbank last week. Reports indicate the hexavalent chromium removal process could cost up to $27 million over 20 years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several potential responsible companies began drilling in nearby Burbank last week--with plans to also drill in Glendale-- and test the ground water for . 

The Chromium-6 removal process could cost up to $27 million over 20 years, a Glendale research team told The Glendale News-Press

Hexavalent chromium has been used in chrome plating of metals, as dye and pigment ingredient, wood preservative and a leather tanning process, according to the EPA's Toxicological Review of chromium 6

"EPA had determined some time ago that hexavalent chromium can cause cancer in humans when they are exposed to it by breathing, but until recently, little information was available regarding its potential to cause cancer in humans when ingested," according to the EPA

The agency has not tested the water in particular areas of Glendale, Burbank and along the Los Angeles River, near the Golden State (5) Freeway. (See the EPA map of current or potential locations for drilling), Lisa Hanusiak of the EPA told Patch. 

Who is Responsible?

Ten aerospace businesses could be potentially responsible for contamination in local ground water, she said. 

“At this point we have contacted them and said they may be responsible,” Hanusiak said. 

Four businesses—Goodrich Corporation, PRC DeSoto International, Inc., Lockheed Martin Corporation and ITT Corporation—have said they will investigate whether hexavalent chromium is in the region and will also have 12 other drilling projects throughout Glendale, Burbank and Los Angeles separate from the EPA, she said. 

"Initially we had been discussing it with the approximately 10 [companies]. Four said, 'We'll help you investigate,' and we're continuing to look for other parties that may have released contamination. Hopefully we'll identify a larger group that we can approach about helping with the investigation and with the clean up in the future."

In addition to these four businesses, six other corporations that are potentially responsible have not responded to the EPA’s inquiry, she said. Hanusiak did not release the names of the other aerospace or industrial companies. 

Where Will the EPA Investigate Hexavalent Chromium? 

Crews from CH2M Hill were contracted by the EPA for the project and could drill up to 17 locations throughout the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles area, Hanusiak said. 

"At this point we are investigating where the contamination came from and where it is because ground water is a resource. But all of the drinking water meets the federal and state standards, and in fact, all of the cities—Los Angeles, Glendale, Burbank—have a standard that they're implementing for chromium that's 10 to 20 times lower than the state and the federal goals," Hanusiak said.

Glendale and Burbank are meeting federal and state regulations for clean water, she said. However, they are taking an additional step and making sure that local water has lower concentrations of any contamination. 

"The city of Glendale in particular has been really proactive in looking for technologies to remove hexavalent chromium from ground water," Hanusiak said.  

Glendale has two demonstration projects that test new technologies to see if they are effective for removing hexavalent chromium. 

La Crescenta is residential, however, it's important for people to know an investigation is happening and the EPA has been investigating the general area for the past 20 years, Hanusiak said. 

"We're looking wherever the contamination is. But generally, it's the industrial areas where the contamination is released. Since the groundwater flows south it's flowing away from La Crescenta, she said.

"At this point we have not we have not implemented treatment specifically for the chromium which is why we're investigating," Hanusiak said. B.J. Lechler, Hydrogeologist from CH2M HILL.

There will be two different wells near Whitnall Highway in Burbank and should be completed this week, Lechler said. 

“It’s an area where we don’t really have information about the ground water quality,” he said.

There will be two different wells on Whitnall Highway in Burbank and should be completed by next week, Lechler said.

What is Chromium? 

Here is an explanation of what chromium is, according to the EPA's Toxicological Review of Hexavalent Chromium

Chromium is a naturally occurring element present in rocks, soils, plants, animals, and volcanic emissions. Chromium may exist in several chemical forms and valence states in the 46environment. The most commonly occurring valence states are chromium metal (0), trivalent Cr(III), and hexavalent Cr(VI). The primary sources of hexavalent chromium in the environment are most likely chromate chemicals used as rust inhibitors in cooling towers and emitted as mists, particulate matter emitted during manufacture and use of metal chromates, and chromic acid mist from the chromeplating industry. Hexavalent chromium in the atmosphere may react with dust particles or other pollutants to form trivalent chromium, or may be removed from air by atmospheric fallout and precipitation.  Hexavalent chromium may exist in aquatic media as watersoluble complex anions and may persist in water.  Hexavalent chromium may also may react with organic matter or other reducing agents to form trivalent chromium. Hexavalent chromium in soil tends to be reduced to trivalent chromium by organic matter. 

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