On May 5, 2017, the Sacramento Superior Court issued a decision that the state’s water regulation, when it comes to the hexavalent chromium, also known as Chromium 6 (or Chrom-6) water standard, is not economically feasible and must be withdrawn. A copy of the Court’s Order can be read here.

In 2014, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) set a new state drinking water standard, or maximum contaminant level (MCL), for Chromium 6 at 10 parts per billion (ppb). Pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), CDPH is specifically directed to establish a MCL for Chromium 6. “[T]o the extent technologically and economically feasible,” the standard shall “avoid any significant risk to public health.” (Health & Saf. Code 116365(b)(3)). In terms of economic feasibility, CDPH is directed to “consider the costs of compliance to public water systems, customers, and other affected parties…” (Id.)

Petitioners California Manufacturers and Technology Association and Solano County Taxpayers Association – as do many other private and public entities – believe the MCL is too stringent and that compliance would be prohibitively expensive. Petitioners filed a lawsuit and asked the court to order CDPH to withdraw the standard due to economic infeasibility and to adopt a new standard at a level that would be economically feasible for Chromium 6. Petitioners primary claim is that CDPH violated the SDWA by failing to adopt an MCL that is economically feasible, and by failing to properly consider the cost of compliance to public water systems, customers, and other affected parties.

The Court found that while several of the points CDPH makes in opposition to Petitioners’ claims are well taken, CDPH ultimately failed to convince that it adequately considered whether the MCL it set was economically feasible. It is unclear whether CDPH will file an appeal.

In order to sufficiently eliminate Chromium 6 to comply with CDPH’s proposed regulation, small, medium and large water systems would have spent considerable costs. Those costs would have been passed on to California consumers.

At this time, the State Water Board is reviewing the order and will update its website when it can provide details as to the range of impacts resulting from this decision. While the MCL is withdrawn, the existing standard for total chromium will continue to limit Chromium 6 to 50 parts per billion.