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.