Southern California environment news and trends

Song of the Week: "Dig Deep," by Sweet Pea Atkinson, for groundwater contamination, chrome-6 wells

Radioactive Rosca/Flickr

Chromium is a steely-gray, lustrous, hard metal that takes a high polish and has a high melting point. It is also odorless, tasteless, and malleable. Also, the EPA is testing for it in the San Fernando Valley.

This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would fill in some data holes by digging some holes (well, okay, wells) to test groundwater contamination at 30 new sites in North Hollywood, Burbank, and Glendale. EPA will spend $3.2 million on this groundwater contamination testing, most of it from "potentially responsible parties" including Goodrich, Lockheed Martin, PRC DeSoto, and ITT. 

They're looking for chromium 6, also known as hexavalent chromium. (If that rings a bell, it's because of Hinkley. You know, Erin Brockovich.) It's an element used in stainless steel, magnetic tapes, cement, rubber, protective coatings on metal, composite floors, and leather tanning. Sometimes the contamination's referred to as a plume; investigators are still learning about how those plumes move underground among substrate layers of sediment. Chromium 6 is also a cancer causer; the Centers for Disease Control has a FAQ about chromium hazards and risks.

The EPA is especially interested in chromium 6 in the San Fernando Valley. But the places they're searching are part of a larger cleanup effort of properties called Superfund sites…and if that sounds familiar, it's because, before my editor at the time said it was too boring, I was profiling a "superfund site of the week" on this here website. The term "potentially responsible parties" generally means companies that operated in the area, using the contaminants that the EPA's worried about. (The government and such companies usually try to avoid the expense of litigating over this, and either negotiate a settlement or slouch and drag slowly toward one.) Local, state, and federal officials have tracked chromium 6, TCE (trichloroethylene) and PCE (perchloroethylene, or "perc").

So, digging back into the 1980s, this week's song for well-digging is "Dig Deep," by Sweet Pea Atkinson and Was (not Was). 

Dig deep, like a knife
Get yourself a slice of life
Dig deep, don't be so nice
If it hurts you're doing it right

Take it fast take it slow
Plant a seed and let it grow
Life is with you, don't say no
Have to try, look inside
It's all there, if you care

Dig deep, like a knife
Get yourself a slice of life
Dig deep, don't be so nice
If it hurts you're doing it right

If you hesitate, you're wasting time
Grab a hold of faith, don't wait in line
It's so easy, open up your mind
Take control, of your soul
Light the flame, play the game

A tip o' the hat to my editor Oscar Garza for this one. Listening to it is like putting yourself in a montage from an '80s movie. Like, a psych-up scene where you're developing a new skill, or getting started on a project, or trying to turn something around. Cursory web searches find no evidence it was on a soundtrack of any movie I saw, but the exquisitely simple lyrics are nearly meditative in their repetition. 

Listen to the 2012 Song of the Week playlist.

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