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PHOENIX — More than 200 million Americans drink water containing potentially dangerous amounts of a carcinogen made famous by environmental activist Erin Brockovich, according to a report released this week.
The average water sample in Phoenix had the highest level of the toxin among water utilities nationwide serving more than 1 million customers, with almost 400 times the amount of chromium-6 that California scientists set as a health goal. But because that number is an average, it doesn't quite represent the levels of chromium-6 in the water that customers drink, a city water official said.
Samples from city wells had the highest levels of the contaminant but contribute a small fraction to the tap, said Susan Kinkade, a Phoenix civil engineer. Taking that into consideration, chromium-6 levels in Phoenix drinking water are on average about 20 times the California goal.
The report also found that Glendale's water had an average chromium-6 level 320 times the health goal. But like Phoenix, the higher levels dwell in groundwater that contributes far less to the water supply than surface water, said Doug Kupel, deputy director of water services in suburban Glendale.
Glendale is already setting aside money in anticipation that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will mandate a new limit for chromium-6, he said.