Cancer-causing chemical made famous by Erin Brockovich found in local water systems

Hundreds of millions of Americans, including those in the Channel 11 viewing area, are drinking tap water contaminated with a cancer-causing chemical, a new report shows.

According to the study by the Environmental Working Group, every water system but one in the region were found to have water contaminated by the carcinogenic chemical chromium 6. The tests were conducted between 2013 and 2016.

Chromium 6 is the same chemical in the real-life case of Erin Brockovich. It's found naturally in things like rocks, animals, plants and soil.

In the new study out of California, 60,000 water samples in all 50 states were taken and 75 percent were found to have higher levels of chromium 6 than what the researchers deemed to be safe.

Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not set a specific limit for safe levels of chromium 6 in drinking water. There is scientific uncertainty regarding possible long-term consequences of ingestion.

The only local water system in the study that did not test positive for the chemical was the Tri County Joint Municipal Authority in Washington County.

According to the study, the water systems that tested positive for chromium 6 are:

  • Ambridge Water Authority
  • Beaver Falls Municipal Authority
  • Buffalo Twp. Municipal. Authority
  • Center Township Water Authority
  • Charleroi Borough Municipal Authority
  • Cranberry Township
  • Creswell Heights Joint Authority
  • Freeport-Southwestern PA Water Authority
  • Hampton Shaler Water Authority
  • Highridge Water Authority
  • Kittanning Suburb Joint Water Authority
  • Latrobe Municipal Authority
  • Monroeville Municipal Authority
  • Moon Township Municipal Authority
  • Morgantown Utility Board
  • New Kensington Municipal Authority
  • North Fayette County Municipal Authority (Fayette County)
  • Oakmont Borough Municipal Authority
  • PA American Water Co. – Brownsville
  • PA American Water Co. - Butler
  • PA American Water Co. – Connellsville
  • PA American Water Co. - Ellwood Cty.
  • PA American Water Co. - New Castle
  • PA American Water Co. - Pittsburgh
  • PA American Water Co. – Uniontown
  • Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority
  • Plum Borough Municipal Authority
  • Westmoreland County Municipal Authority – McKeesport
  • Westmoreland County Municipal Authority - Sweeney Plant
  • Westmoreland County Municipal Authority - Yough Plant
  • West View Borough Municipal Authority
  • Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority

Gary Lobaugh, Pennsylvania American Water External Affairs Manager-Western PA, provided the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

At Pennsylvania American Water, we take water quality and safety very seriously. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection set water quality standards designed to protect public health and Pennsylvania American Water treats our customer’s drinking water to meet or surpass these standards, including those set for chromium.  
The USEPA does not have specific drinking water regulations for chromium-6, only total chromium, which includes consideration of the health effects due to chromium-6. Pennsylvania American Water routinely tests its water supply for total chromium and all results have been in compliance with the USEPA standards.  We are also voluntarily sample for chromium-6 in accordance with USEPA guidance.  
Pennsylvania American Water, and our parent company American Water, is supporting national research through the Water Research Foundation to better monitor and treat for chromium-6.  The USEPA is also conducting a rigorous and comprehensive review of health effects of chromium-6.  Our water quality experts are closely following this research and if necessary, will be ready to implement changes in our testing and treatment.
Water quality results on chrome-6 and other parameters can be found on American Water’s website  Enter your zip code or city/state to get information on your specific water quality.  There you will find the annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) and a basic water quality summary with links to additional information on chrome-6.
(KIRO contributed to this report.)