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Metro Newsroom

Testing Confirms Quality of Louisville's Drinking Water

Saturday March 12, 2011

Louisville Water Company has completed its initial monitoring study for hexavalent chromium (chromium 6) and tests confirm Louisville’s drinking water is safe and high-quality, exceeding all current regulations.
Results from three independent laboratories show Louisville’s drinking water is 99.5% better than the current federal regulation for Total Chromium, which includes chromium 3 and chromium 6. 

Total Chromium is Regulated
Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates Total Chromium, which includes chromium 3 and chromium 6. Chromium is a naturally occurring element found in soil and rocks.  It often exists in two forms: chromium 3, which is an important nutrient for the body and chromium 6, which is often formed from industrial operations and has been demonstrated to be toxic in high amounts when inhaled.  Currently, the EPA is reviewing studies on the health effects of chromium 6 when ingested.

For water quality monitoring, the Total Chromium number includes both chromium 3 and chromium 6.  The maximum contaminant level for Total Chromium is 100 parts per billion (ppb). There is no federal or state regulation for chromium 6.

Environmental Working Group Report
In December 2010, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report on the amount of chromium 6 found in samples of more than 30 large water utilities ranging from 0.03 to 12.90 ppb.  The EWG study was based on technology and testing methods that can detect chromium 6 at trace amounts as low as 0.02ppb. Currently, discussions are underway in California to make that amount a public health goal – not a water quality regulation. 

To put parts per billion in perspective:
 - 1 ppb = 1 second in 32 years  OR
 - 1 ppb = 1 drop in 211,328 8-ounce glasses of water  

The EWG report from one sample at an unknown location in Louisville showed a chromium 6 level of 0.14 ppb.  Of the 31 large water utilities with chromium 6 detections, Louisville’s level of 0.14 was lower than 21 other cities. 

Louisville Water Company Study and Independent Testing
In its 150-year history, Louisville Water has never used one sample to drive
public health policy.  That is why the company has an EPA certified lab and
teams of scientists and engineers conducting 200 tests per day to ensure our
drinking water exceeds regulatory standards. For this effort, the company’s
research team designed a study to include multiple samples from the Ohio
River to the finished water to determine the presence and amount of chromium 6.  See the results in this chart.   

Test Results Confirm Quality
Three independent laboratories (the California lab used by EWG, one in Nevada
and one in Indiana) were hired to analyze water samples for levels of
chromium 6.  There were two rounds of testing. The primary findings from their
reports show the following:  

  • Total Chromium levels in Louisville’s drinking water are 99.5% lower than the federal standard.  The Total Chromium level at both the Crescent Hill Filtration Plant and the B.E. Payne Treatment plants is 0.50 ppb versus the federal standard of 100 ppb.
  • The Ohio River, our source, contains trace amounts, 0.07 ppb, of chromium 6.
  • Drinking water leaving the Crescent Hill Filtration Plant had a trace amount, 0.05 ppb of chromium 6 and water leaving the B.E. Payne Treatment Plant had a trace amount, 0.28 ppb of chromium 6. 

“Louisville’s drinking water is safe and high-quality,” said Greg Heitzman, Louisville Water President and CEO.  “Louisville Water was pro-active in initiating this monitoring to confirm the quality we provide every day.  We will continue to follow the EPA guidelines regarding chromium 6 now that trace amounts can now be detected with advanced, analytical technology.”

Currently, the EPA is conducting research to determine if it will create a regulatory standard for chromium 6.  “Ensuring safe drinking water is our top priority,” said Dr. Rengao Song, Ph.D, Louisville Water’s Chief Scientist. “Public health must be protected by thorough, scientific research which will determine any health impact of trace amounts of contaminants.”

For additional information, contact Kelley Dearing Smith, Strategic Communications Manager, 502.569.3695.