On April 15, 2014, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) submitted the Final Statement of Reasons for the Hexavalent Chromium Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) to the Office of Administrative Law. No significant changes were made to the draft MCL of 10 ppb (µg/L) released by CDPH in August 2013, despite the receipt of approximately 18,000 comments on the proposal. The MCL will become effective on July 1, 2014, once it is approved by the Office of Administrative Law.
Prior to the draft hexavalent chromium MCL released by CDPH in August 2013, both California and federal law set a drinking water standard for total chromium, but neither California nor federal law set a drinking water standard specifically for hexavalent chromium. The hexavalent chromium MCL in California will precede any drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium under federal law.
As previously discussed here and here, the hexavalent chromium MCL establishes the drinking water standard that water purveyors must meet in order to serve potable water to consumers. Under existing California law, once the MCL is effective, public water purveyors will need to begin sampling for hexavalent chromium to meet the requirements of the California Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and report the samples to CDPH. If the samples exceed the MCL, purveyors have reporting obligations to customers and may be required to take a water source out of service under circumstances specified in the SDWA.
The publication of the hexavalent chromium MCL follows from an order issued by the Alameda County Superior Court requiring CDPH to set the MCL, previously discussed here. See Natural Res. Def. Council v. Cal. Dep’t of Public Health, No. RG12-643520 (Alameda Sup. Ct. July 26, 2013).
Although there had been discussion in recent weeks regarding including an extended grace period for compliance with the hexavalent chromium MCL for water purveyors, which would have triggered an extension of the comment period on the MCL, no extended grace period was included in the final version of the hexavalent chromium MCL. More extended grace periods are frequently provided by the federal Environmental Protection Agency when establishing drinking water standards. The California MCL provides for a six-month implementation period before compliance monitoring must begin, and an additional year to meet the standard, but one commenter indicated that a “lawsuit seeking to stay application of the MCL” would result if an extended grace period was not provided.
Barg Coffin will continue to monitor California’s efforts to develop a drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium as well as any litigation that challenges the new standard. The Final Statement of Reasons is available here.