- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

RIO LINDA, Calif. (AP) - A search for new sources of water by Sacramento County’s Rio Linda-Elverta Community Water District has found that wells closest to a former Air Force base have high levels of hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, a known carcinogen.

Water in six of the 11 wells in the district tested above the state’s maximum contaminant level for chromium-6, according to the Sacramento Bee (https://bit.ly/1daQZ1x). All the wells above the state standard are near the former McClellan Air Force Base just northeast of Sacramento.

“Looking at the broader picture, and the data from the well siting study, suggests that the chromium levels are coming from the contamination from the Air Force base to the southeast,” said Larry Ernst, a hydrogeologist with Wood Rodgers and author of the report.

Ernst’s research found that chromium levels decrease the farther wells are from the base.

McClellan qualifies as a Superfund site because of the 326 waste areas the Environmental Protection Agency has identified on the base. Superfund is the primary federal program to clean up the nation’s uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.

McClellan radiation safety officer Steve Mayer said the chromium levels are not from McClellan contamination and that the Air Force has tested its groundwater for hexavalent chromium since the 1980s. Two chromium plumes have been identified there.

“Extraction wells are actively removing and treating the groundwater associated with those two plumes at this time,” said Mayer. “Both of those are within base boundaries.”

Mary Henrici, the water district’s general manager, estimated costs for three new wells at $10 million to $13 million, plus $1 million yearly in operational and maintenance costs for wells now in use that can be treated for chromium-6.

“When you have to find a new supply of water or treat the current supply - that’s always expensive,” Henrici said

Exposure to chromium-6 can lead to skin irritation, occupational asthma, and kidney and liver damage, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

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Information from: The Sacramento Bee, https://www.sacbee.com

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