Is Chromium 6 Contaminating U.S. Public Water Systems?

A new report on chromium 6 levels in public water systems has caused a lot of commotion lately, prompting many Americans to ask, “Is chromium 6 contaminating U.S. public water systems?” To address this important question, the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) has released the following article:

Evidence of chromium 6 in public water systems has been making headlines. A recent report compiled by the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research agency, stated that higher than recommended levels of chromium 6 was found in water being delivered to two-thirds of all Americans. While this information may come across as startling, it is important to note that these findings, in addition to an interactive map listed on their website, include chromium 6 testing for both treated and untreated water sources. What the map fails to state is that untreated water is never provided to public water agency customers; the water samples analyzed in the report include untreated, non-potable water. Consumers should research the consumer confidence report for their specific water agency to obtain accurate information on their water quality and not rely solely on the information provided on this map.

Photo Credit: SAWPA (

 What is chromium 6?

Hexavalent chromium or chromium 6 is a metallic element found naturally in water. It is odorless and tasteless. In lower concentrations, it likely appears in water naturally, however in larger concentrations, chromium 6 can be a result of pollution. According to the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for determining what level of contaminants, such as chromium 6, in drinking water is safe for human consumption based on extensive testing, monitoring and research. The EPA creates enforceable drinking water standards for maximum contaminant levels (MCL). The MCL is the maximum allowable contaminant concentration, which a public water system can deliver to a customer. Currently, the safe MCL for chromium 6, according to the state of California is 10 parts per billion (ppb), the EPA standard is 100 ppb.

What are public health goals?

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, sets public health goals. These goals are based on concentrations that pose no significant health risks if consumed for an entire lifetime. These public health goals are utilized by public water agencies to provide customers with information about drinking water contaminants in their annual consumer confidence report. Public health goals are not regulatory standards, nor are they intended to be. They are a guideline for the State Water Resources Control Board when determining the appropriate MCL for a contaminant. To find out more information from your specific water agency on levels of chromium 6, visit their website and evaluate the consumer confidence report.

Where to find additional information on chromium 6

Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate the water poses a health risk. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the U.S. EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or visit the EPA’s web site at Trace chemicals are measured in parts per million (ppm), which is the same as milligrams per liter (mg/L). Some constituents are measured in parts per billion (ppb). Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Those who may be particularly at risk include cancer patients, organ transplant recipients, people with HIV-AIDS or other immune system disorders, as well as some elderly individuals and infants. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers.

Babcock Laboratories is proud to provide its clients with environmental testing services, including testing for chromium 6. We are committed to helping our clients serve and protect public health and the environment. To view the original article posted on SAWPA’s website, click here. For information from the EPA about chromium in drinking water, click here. For more information about our testing services for chromium in drinking water, visit our website or contact us at 951-653-3351.

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Next Drinking Water Workshop on November 17

Babcock labs will hold its 3rd semi-annual Drinking Water Workshop on Thursday, November 17th. To register, click here. For more information about what the workshop entails, click here or read below:

DWWIt is challenging for any sample technician or operator to take a valid sample without first understanding the “why” and “how” behind the drinking water sample. Proper drinking water sampling requires thorough training, extensive knowledge, appropriate resources, and up-to-date techniques. These elements are vital if an organization wishes to maintain scientific integrity and receive quality, legally defensible data from its laboratory.

Because this information is so valuable to your organization’s endeavor to protect the public health, Babcock Laboratories has created a Drinking Water Workshop tailored to meet the needs of your staff. The workshop includes*:

A Short Course Seminar:

  • Sampling techniques
  • Bottle type and preservation
  • Safety and sample documentation
  • Analytical methods and testing

Interactive Training:

  • Hands-on sampling practice
  • Real-life scenarios
  • Two sample testing stations
  • An analysis observation station

*There will also be a break in-between sessions at which point refreshments and a small snack will be provided. 

To ensure that each attendee receives one-on-one time with our trainers, space for this workshop is limited to 30 individuals, with a maximum of 2 individuals per organization.

Both the seminar and training courses will be conducted by laboratory professionals who have years of expertise in drinking water sampling. Each workshop attendee will receive a certificate of completion verifying that they have received proper education and applied training on drinking water sampling.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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CA ELAP Selects 2016 TNI as Laboratory Standard

In a major step toward meaningful reform for the California Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (CA ELAP), the Program has made a preliminary determination to develop regulations incorporating the 2016 NELAC Institute (TNI) Standard, Volume 1: Management and Technical Requirements for Laboratories Performing Environmental Analysis as the laboratory standard. The decision was reached after considering the recommendations of its Expert Review Panel and hearing from the stakeholder community and its two advisory bodies, the Environmental Laboratory Technical Advisory Committee (ELTAC) and the State Agency Partner Committee (SAPC).

ELAP, however, may not adopt and implement the 2016 TNI Standard, Volume 1, in its entirety. According to its revised notice of opportunity for public comment and notice of public workshop, “ELAP will consider revisions to portions of the Standard that may be problematic for implementation in California before the formal rulemaking process commences. Once the regulations are proposed for adoption, a public comment period will be held as provided in the Administrative Procedure Act.” The comment period on ELAP’s preliminary selection of the Standard has been extended from its original deadline of Friday, September 16th to its new deadline of Thursday, October 20th.

For evaluation and public comment purposes, a non-downloadable version of the 2016 TNI Standard, Volume 1 is available for viewing on the TNI website. The document is also available at all Regional Water Quality Control Board Offices and Division of Drinking Water Offices during normal business hours. A summary of the changes between the 2016 Standard and the 2009 Standard is also available for viewing.

ELAP also announced that it will hold a public workshop at the CalEPA Headquarters Building in Sacramento on Thursday, October 6th. The workshop is intended to provide information on the development of regulations for ELAP and the preliminary staff recommendation for the laboratory standard component of the regulations. Additionally, the workshop will provide interested persons the opportunity to give oral comments to the State Water Board Members.

The goal of the CA ELAP reform is that all accredited labs be capable of and accountable for providing data of a known and documented quality. As a member of ELTAC who advocated for adoption and implementation of the 2016 TNI Standard, Volume 1, I am pleased by ELAP’s preliminary decision and believe implementation of the Standard, Volume 1, in its entirety is the best option for California ELAP, laboratories, agencies, and residents. For information on the proposed timeline for implementation of the complete 2016 TNI Standard, Volume 1, you can click here to view my presentation to ELTAC and ELAP Chief Christine Sotelo.

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Waste Not, Want Not: CA Plans for Direct Potable Reuse of Recycled Water

California is likely to be the first state to embrace recycled wastewater as a potable drinking water supply after the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) released a report on the feasibility of regulating direct potable reuse of recycled water. News Deeply published the following article on the subject:

In this May 8, 2015 picture, an engineer fills a container with recycled water at the Advanced Water Purification Facility Friday, May 8, 2015, in San Diego. PHOTO CREDIT: Gregory Bull, AP

PHOTO CREDIT: Gregory Bull, AP

On September 8, the State Water Resources Control Board released a long-awaited report on the feasibility of so-called “direct potable reuse.” This means recycling urban sewage flows in a process akin to seawater desalination, then plumbing it directly into a city’s freshwater distribution lines without first storing it in a groundwater aquifer or reservoir (known as indirect potable reuse).

The water board relied, in part, on a 12-member panel of experts from around the world that studied the science and challenges of direct potable reuse for two years. And it concurred with the panel that it is possible to regulate direct potable reuse in a manner that produces safe and reliable drinking water from recycled sewage.

Next comes the process to actually develop those regulations, which the board intends to begin soon. Officials can’t estimate when those regulations will be complete. But there are a number of California water agencies waiting for that to happen so they can begin offering water produced in this way.

No other state has advanced this far with direct potable reuse, making it likely to become another arena in which California pioneers new technology for the world.

“This is a major milestone for California,” said Jennifer West, managing director of the California Water Reuse Association. “I think it has the potential to be a very significant water source for California. Without this report, we wouldn’t even be able to get off the ground.”

The report was required by Senate bill 918, a 2010 law written by California state senator Fran Pavley, D—Agoura Hills. The law required an investigation into the feasibility of direct potable use, but it does not require the state to develop regulations allowing it to move forward. That was left to the discretion of the water board, based upon expert analysis.

Randy Barnard, recycled water unit chief at the state water board, said the agency will begin to draft those regulations, based on the encouraging findings of the experts. “There are agencies all up and down California that would consider a project like this. There’s a lot of interest,” Barnard said. “But they’re just waiting on what the requirements are going to be and what they have to do to move forward.”

The expert panel identified a number of technical questions that must be answered before the state can begin to regulate direct potable reuse. One of the biggest involves the consequences of eliminating the “environmental buffer” that defines indirect potable reuse: blending recycled water with other supplies in a reservoir or aquifer.

For example, Orange County Water District operates one of the largest wastewater recycling projects in America. It is considered indirect reuse because, after the wastewater is treated using microfilters, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light, the water is pumped into settling basins where it recharges groundwater aquifers. Weeks or months later, it is pumped out to a drinking water treatment plant before delivery to households and businesses.

Even though the water meets drinking water standards when it leaves the Orange County recycling plant, the environmental buffer provides an additional filter and ensures it is blended and diluted with other supplies. It also provides a kind of psychological buffer, Barnard notes, that the public finds appealing.

The process of direct potable reuse would involve all these same steps – and possibly more – except the environmental buffer would be eliminated. The treated water would flow directly into a water treatment plant or even straight into a city’s water delivery pipes.

“If we remove that environmental buffer, the expert panel has told us we have to come up with other processes – engineered processes – that would accomplish the same thing that this environmental buffer does to protect public health,” Barnard says.

The state needs to decide what those steps should be. Then it must figure out how to put them into enforceable regulations that produce measurable results to ensure public health.

Another area of research involves “contaminants of emerging concern,” a broad category of water pollutants – such as pharmaceuticals and chemicals – that are not removed by traditional wastewater treatment practices. The water board must decide which of these contaminants should be regulated as part of direct potable reuse, and what treatment steps should be imposed to control them.

Other requirements include making sure treatment plant operators have the proper training to handle recycled water in a direct potable reuse setting, and defining new water-quality monitoring methods to swiftly detect when there’s a problem with the recycled water.

But the water board has already made a crucial decision in this regard: It is not going to wait for research to answer these questions before developing regulations. Instead, it will begin to develop regulations concurrent with the research, which it will help direct through advertised requests and, in some cases, funding.

West said a number of industry groups have already begun research projects to answer the unknowns. She notes, however, that direct potable reuse won’t be right for every community. For one thing, it is expensive – though not as costly as seawater desalination, largely because the energy requirements aren’t as great. But in many cases, direct potable reuse may be the state’s second-most expensive water source.

Other communities may simply decide they’re not comfortable – despite all the safeguards and treatment steps – with plumbing treated wastewater straight into the drinking water system.

Yet public acceptance of recycled water has grown significantly in recent years. California’s ongoing drought helped, given that many communities opened fill stations where residents could collect free recycled water for landscape irrigation.

Also, many water agencies have safely delivered treated wastewater for years in special “purple pipe” systems for landscape irrigation.

One example is the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which operates a purple pipe system. And in 2014, it opened an “Advanced Water Purification Center” that treats wastewater to drinking water standards. It operates much like Orange County’s system, except instead of discharging to groundwater, the treated water is put into the purple pipe system to improve the quality of other treated wastewater sources.

The Santa Clara district is now planning a project to recharge groundwater with this highly treated recycled water supply, and it is interested in pursuing direct potable reuse once the state adopts regulations.

San Diego is working on a similar project that will pipe treated wastewater to San Vicente Reservoir. There, it will mix with imported water from Northern California and the Colorado River before treatment in the city’s regular drinking water supply system.

Jim Fiedler, chief operating officer at the Santa Clara Valley Water District, said direct potable reuse would be a natural extension of these efforts, because the same water systems that feed recycled water into a groundwater recharge project or a reservoir can just as easily feed a drinking-water treatment plant.

Fiedler served on a separate advisory group of local government and water agency officials that provided input on the water board’s report.

“We’re seeing this potentially as being a raw water source similar to other water sources,” said Fiedler. “When you first ask a person about this, their attitude is pretty negative. But once you start explaining what goes on with the treatment methods, you find this is something they would be more accepting of.”

To read the original article by News Deeply, click here. To read the SWRCB press release, click here. To read the SWRCB draft report, click here.

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Babcock Labs to Host Next UCR Alumni Event

The University of California, Riverside (UCR) Alumni Association will hold its next networking event at Babcock Laboratories!

_p2n0191a-2At the event, which will be hosted at our facilities, attendees will have the opportunity to network with other UCR alumni, take a guided tour of our laboratories, and hear from Babcock Labs’ CEO and UCR alumna Allison Mackenzie. Ms. Mackenzie will give an overview of our company’s history and operations, as well as the longstanding relationships Babcock Labs has with both UCR and the Inland Empire community.

The Alumni Event will take place on Wednesday, October 5th at 6pm. It is free for Alumni Association Members and their guests, and $10 for non-members. Attendees will also enjoy refreshments and complimentary parking on our premises.

Anyone interested in the event can register here. You can also register by phone by calling 951-827-2586. Registration closes on September 30th, as space is limited. The event will be held at Babcock Laboratories’ facilities: 6100 Quail Valley Ct., Riverside, CA 92507.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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UCMR 4: Preparing for What’s to Come

The US EPA will soon publish the UCMR 4 Final Rule, with pre-implementation activities commencing next year. Currently, laboratories are in the process of applying to the program.

The program entails the quantitation of 30 analytes: total microcystins, 8 speciated microcystins and nodularin, 2 cyanobacterial toxins, 2 metals, 9 pesticides, 9 Haloacetic acids, 3 alcohols and 3 semivolatile aromatic compounds. To better reflect the times of year when certain contaminants (i.e., cyanotoxins and pesticides) are more likely to occur in drinking water, the proposed sample collection time frame is March through November.


Perhaps most unique in the new round of UCMR is the proposed phased sample-analysis for microcystins. Source water intake samples will be analyzed for total microcystins by ELISA. If the result is less than 0.3 μg/L, the result will be reported to the EPA and the additional sample collected at the Entry Point to the Distribution System (EPTDS). If the ELISA result is greater than 0.3 μg/L the source water result will be reported to the EPA and the EPTDS sample will be analyzed by ELISA. Again, if the result is less than 0.3 μg/L, the result will be reported to the EPA and the second sample collected for 544 will not be analyzed. If the result is greater than 0.3 μg/L, the result will be reported to the EPA and the second sample collected will be analyzed using Method 544 to identify particular microcystin congeners.

Under UCMR 4, large groundwater (GW) systems with multiple EPTDS can sample at representative locations rather than at each EPTDS if prior approval is received. New GW representative monitoring plans must be submitted for review by the state or EPA within 120 days from publication of the final rule and approved representative locations must be loaded into the SDWARS database by December 31, 2017.

In terms of what’s new for small systems, if notified that the system will be subject to UCMR 4, the small system must report contact and zip code information to SDWARS within 90 days of notification. Small systems must also report sampling location information to SDWARS by December 31, 2017.

Only UCMR 4 approved laboratories can analyze UCMR 4 samples collected at Public Water Systems. Laboratories must meet the required equipment criteria, laboratory performance criteria, and data reporting criteria. Approval is by method and by individual location, and a lab may apply for any number of UCMR 4 methods. Once the application is accepted, the lab will be sent PTs to demonstrate proficiency in the applicable analyses. If the lab passes these PTs, it is then put on the EPA’s official list of UCMR 4 approved labs.

Babcock Laboratories has participated in the UCMR program since its inception, and has been approved for all preceding UCMR rounds (1, 2, and 3). If you have questions or would like to talk with our staff about UCMR 4, please contact our Director of Client Services, Cathy Iijima.

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SWRCB Releases New Conservation Targets

On August 16th, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) released the following press release concerning new water conservation targets:

SACRAMENTO – The State Water Resources Control Board today posted “stress tests” submitted by water suppliers to demonstrate whether they have adequate supplies to withstand three additional dry years. Water suppliers that pass their “stress test” will not face a state-mandated conservation standard through January 2017, but are expected to keep conserving water to build long-term drought resilience.

“We created the ‘stress tests’ so that local agencies could demonstrate their ability to supply water under extended drought conditions, so we could step back from our unprecedented 25 percent water conservation mandate with some confidence,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “Demonstrating adequate preparation for drought through developing supplies like local storage, recycling, groundwater banking and other means is great. Sharing that information with customers in an accessible way is also a critical piece of developing consumer comfort and confidence. Being prepared, however, is not a license to abandon conservation, because one thing we know is we can’t know what next year or the next will bring.”

In addition to releasing the “stress test” data, the State Water Board issued nine Informational Orders to water suppliers whose “stress test” submissions were incomplete or inadequate. The nine suppliers that received Informational Orders have 30 days to provide additional documentation, and failure to comply could result in a return to a supplier’s March 2016 conservation standard, monetary penalties, or both.

Of the 379 suppliers that submitted “stress tests,” 36 indicated that they would face a supply shortage in 2019 and will be required to meet a conservation standard equal to the shortage amount. Thirty-two suppliers did not submit “stress tests” and will retain their March 2016 conservation standards through January 2017.

A significant purpose of the stress test was to give the public a picture of the water supplies their water agency was relying on. Because many “stress test” submissions were incomplete, unclear, or appeared to not follow instructions properly as originally submitted, State Water Board staff has spent significant time engaging with water suppliers to make their analysis more clear and complete. However, the staff did not independently research and verify the accuracy of the submissions.

Going forward, the State Water Board will investigate allegations that “stress test” submittals are inaccurate. The Board reserves the right to reject submissions found to be significantly erroneous or misleading. The State Water Board will also closely monitor conservation levels through the end of the year and will prepare a proposal to return to state-mandated conservation levels in February 2017 if drought conditions persist and statewide conservation levels falter significantly.

“Last year, with the lowest snowpack in 500 years after three terrible drought years, and less than impressive response to our earlier calls for conservation, we needed to step in and mandate specific conservation targets to prepare in case we had yet another record bad year in a row,” said Chair Marcus. “Thankfully, this year we received a modest reprieve, and saw improved water supplies for most urban areas. Just as important, we also saw that agencies and the public had stepped up to accomplish impressive conservation.

“So, we’ve stepped back and let local communities step back in to take responsibility for maintaining adequate conservation levels — if they can demonstrate adequate supply. We commend the many water suppliers that passed their stress tests who also have stepped up to demonstrate a strong commitment to continued conservation, just as we are concerned about those who are trumpeting preparation or supply and intentionally or unintentionally sending an anti-conservation message.”

According to State Water Board analysis, water suppliers such as the city of Sacramento, which submitted a well-documented “stress test” and elected to maintain restrictions on outdoor irrigation, deserve credit for showing leadership. Other water suppliers, such as the city of Burbank, which saved 27.8 percent in June, and the Dublin-San Ramon Services District, which saved 32.5 percent, have continued promoting conservation and expanded public access to recycled water for irrigation.

In addition, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, San Jose Water Company, Yuba City, Beverly Hills, Lemoore, and Eastern Municipal water districts, and many others submitted A- grade stress tests and also kept conservation levels high. The State Water Board has required continued reporting of conservation results and will monitor the results, while being prepared to step back in with mandatory targets if necessary depending upon water supply conditions and water conservation levels.

In addition to monitoring conservation levels, the State Water Board is working closely with the Department of Water Resources and other state agencies to develop long-term water use efficiency standards, as directed by Executive Order B-37-16, which will be applicable across California. These new standards will provide for improved water conservation and efficiency in the years ahead based on climate, population, and business types, rather than percentage reductions off a given baseline. The new standards will also include permanent prohibitions on wasteful water use, improved drought planning, and enhanced leak detection and repair requirements.

The adopted regulation also keeps in place the specific prohibitions against certain water uses. Those prohibitions include watering down a sidewalk with a hose instead of using a broom or a brush, or overwatering a landscape to where water is running off the lawn, over a sidewalk and into the gutter. Prohibitions directed to the hospitality industry also remain in place.

Prohibitions against homeowners associations taking action against homeowners during a declared drought remain as well. State Water Board staff will be following up with urban water suppliers who have certified a three-year supply to ensure that local enforcement of the prohibitions is being reported in the monthly water data each urban water supplier sends showing how much water is delivered to customers every month.

More information on the Board action today can be found here.


In his April 1, 2015 Executive Order, in light of the worst snowpack in 500 years, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. mandated a 25 percent water use reduction by users of urban water supplies across California. In May 2015, the State Water Board adopted an emergency regulation requiring a 25 percent reduction in overall potable urban water use statewide from June 2015 through February 2016.

On Feb. 2, 2016, based on Gov. Brown’s November 2015 Executive Order, the State Water Board approved an updated and extended emergency regulation. The extended regulation responded to calls for continuing the conservation structure that had spurred such dramatic savings while providing greater consideration of some factors that influence water use: climate, population growth and significant investments in new local, drought-resilient water supplies such as wastewater reuse and desalination.

On May 9, 2016, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued Executive Order B-37-16, requiring the Board to adjust its emergency water conservation regulation through the end of January 2017 in recognition of improved urban water supply conditions across the state and, separately, take action to make some of the requirements of the regulation permanent. The Board adopted the revised regulation on May 18. June was the first month under the revised regulation.

Since June 2014, the State Water Board has been tracking water conservation for each of the state’s larger urban water suppliers (those with more than 3,000 connections) on a monthly basis. Compliance with individual water supplier conservation requirements is based on cumulative savings. Cumulative tracking means that conservation savings will be added together from one month to the next and compared to the amount of water used during the same months in 2013.

California has been dealing with the effects of an unprecedented drought. To learn about all the actions the state has taken to manage our water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, visit drought.CA.Gov. Every Californian should take steps to conserve water. Find out how at While saving water, it is important to properly water trees. Find out how at In addition to many effective local programs, state- funded turf removal and toilet replacement rebates are also available. Information and rebate applications can be found at:

To view the official press release on the SWRCB’s website, click here. To view information about Babcock Labs’ drinking water testing services, click here.

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Updates in Environmental Measurement and Laboratory Accreditation

At the beginning of the month, representatives from Babcock Labs attended the Environmental Measurement Symposium (EMS) in Garden Grove, CA. The symposium, which ran over the course of a week, included 27 technical sessions, three poster sessions, four keynote speakers, a technology showcase, and a plenary session.

David Schiessel presenting at EMSAmong the representatives from Babcock Labs were our Organics Manager David Schiessel and Corporate Communications Director Alexandra Chrystal, both of whom presented during the technical sessions. Mr. Schiessel presented on method development concerning the non-targeted screening of halogenated organics in wastewater. Ms. Chrystal spoke as part of a session on citizen science, calling for interdisciplinary collaboration among the scientific community, public policy makers, and communication specialists on citizen science initiatives.

Other representatives from Babcock Labs included Quality Assurance Manager Stacey Fry, Assistant Quality Assurance Manager Julia Sudds, and myself. The symposium provided greater insight into both technical and policy topics that are important to the environmental testing industry. Perhaps most significantly, the symposium included forums, meetings, and trainings pertaining to The NELAC Institute (TNI).

TNI establishes the Standards used by the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP). Christine Sotelo, Chief of CA’s Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP), announced during one of the sessions that on October 5th, 2016, the CA State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) will consider their recommendations to ELAP regarding the implementation of a Standard for the newly restructured CA ELAP. Currently, the Environmental Laboratory Technical Advisory Committee (ELTAC) has a split decision for their recommendations to ELAP regarding the appropriate Standard for California. Half of the ELTAC representatives support TNI while half insist that ELAP should invest what some deem considerable time and effort to create a standard unique to CA. The regulatory partner agencies have already advised ELAP that they support implementation of the TNI Standard for California.

EMS is the combined meeting of the Forum on Environmental Accreditation and the National Environmental Monitoring Conference (NEMC), and is co-sponsored by TNI under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For more information, click here

Babcock Labs is NELAP accredited through ORELAP. Click here to see our certification.

Posted in Accreditations and Certifications, Babcock Lab On The Go, California Environmental Testing Laboratories, ELAP, Events and Conferences, Industry News | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Updates in Environmental Measurement and Laboratory Accreditation

EPA to Propose SDWA Regulations Concerning Lead in August

Next month the U.S. EPA is scheduled to propose a new rule to support the goals of the Safe Drinking Water Act and clarify expectations for lead in public water systems. As Sara Jerome of Water Online reported:

In August, the agency plans to propose regulations pertaining to Section 1417 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The agency wants a final rule to be formalized by February of 2018.

The backdrop: Congress passed a law in 1986 prohibiting “the use of pipes, solder or flux that are not ‘lead free’ in public water systems or plumbing in facilities providing water for human consumption,” according to the EPA.

“At the time ‘Lead Free” was defined as solder and flux with no more than 0.2 percent lead and pipes with no more than 8 percent,” the agency says.

The mandate has been updated since then. In 2011, Congress changed the definition of lead-free, and the new rules went into effect in 2014. This change revised “the maximum allowable lead content from not more than 8 percent to not more than a weighted average of 0.25 percent of the wetted surface of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures.”

What will happen in the upcoming rulemaking? The EPA says it is planning to “propose regulations to codify and assist in the implementation of…amendments to section 1417 of SDWA.”

The lead contamination crisis in Flint, MI, is sure to play into any EPA rulemaking around lead and water in the coming months. Flint is still fighting major consequences caused by lead in its infrastructure. “A new report average cost for replacing service water lines was $7,500. That’s almost double the average cost of $4,000 estimated by state last fall,” The Detroit Free Press reported.

Other water issues on the EPA’s regulatory agenda this spring:

  • Clean Water Act Methods Update Rule for the Analysis of Effluent
  • Credit Assistance for Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Projects
  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Application and Program Updates Rule
  • Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System General Permit Remand Rule
  • Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 4) for Public Water Systems
  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Application and Program Updates Rule

Click here to read the original article published by Jerome on Water Online

Click here to view the rule on the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs website

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The Drought’s Effect on Water Quality in Southern California

California is in the throes of the worst drought it’s experienced in the last century. The focus thus far has been on water conservation, reclamation, and alternative sources—and rightfully so, given the lack of water available in the State. There is, however, another potential water issue related to the drought looming in the shadows, of less immediate concern but deserving of concern nonetheless. That issue is water quality.

In an attempt to better understand the drought’s effects on water quality in Southern California, we contacted three industry experts—Craig Miller, Deputy General Manager at Western Municipal Water District; Celeste Cantú, General Manager of the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA); and Gary Lynch, retired Vice President of Water Quality at Park Water Company—and asked them to share their knowledge and perspectives on the topic.

An example of CA’s conservation efforts. Photo credit: CBS News

Certainly water quality is contingent on water quantity, which is why California public policy makers, water professionals, and residents have and are continuing to concentrate on ways to conserve and replenish the water supply.

“In this case, quantity is more crucial than quality; We need water first,” said Miller. But despite the importance of quantity, it cannot come at the expense of quality.

As Miller also explained, “The biggest priority as a retail water agency is serving high quality water that meets all of the Federal and State health requirements.”

For Western Municipal Water District and other California water agencies, the focus may be on sustaining the water supply but the end goal is always potable water for consumers. Unfortunately, the drought is placing strain on that end goal by threatening water quality.

According to Cantú, the drought is likely having a negative impact on water quality in three major areas: domestic consumption, agriculture, and wildlife.

In terms of domestic consumption, Lynch explained that potential impacts on water quality stem, in part, from lowered turnover in water mains and water storage tanks. As the water sits, particularly on hot summer days, there is greater risk of chlorine degradation and potential formation of disinfection byproducts.

“The design of water systems to meet fire flows presents the challenge of keeping water fresh to begin with,” said Lynch. “Cutting usage by 25 percent creates an even bigger challenge, operationally, to keep water fresh.”

The lack of rainfall is also problematic. “Any time you’re not getting rainfall and runoff from ambient basins, your basins are going to degrade,” explained Miller. This means that when those basins are recovered, the water extracted is of potentially poorer quality.

“This can be challenging from a political standpoint,” said Miller. “Can my ratepayers afford to clean up the water?”

Southern California receives a significant amount of its water supply from Northern California. Therefore, drought effects on Northern California—such as limited rainfall, drier conditions, and changes in inflow into the Delta—all have the potential to negatively affect water quality in Southern California. One such problem, as Miller explained, is increased level of TDS in potable drinking water, which translates into increased levels in discharges into wastewater treatment plants and increased levels in groundwater.

Another significant contributor to the Southern California water supply is the Colorado River, which is naturally salty.

“Historically we have blended down the salt with sweeter Delta water,” explained Cantú. “But the drought has affected the import of Delta water so we have more Colorado River water, which means we have less salt dilution. Over time this will be a problem.”

Salt build up is a challenge when it comes to water recycling.

Image of salt build up around crops. Photo credit: Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

“Every time humans touch water it gets saltier,” said Cantú. “If you’re going to follow that drop in its cycle, every time a person uses it, it becomes saltier. Every time we put it on our yards, it becomes saltier. So in what we collect—either through runoff or wastewater sewer plants—there is salt.”

Cantú explained that salt is hard to treat. The Santa Ana region has desalters which push the water through membranes and separate NaCl (salt) from H2O (water). The salt is then conveyed via a brine line to Orange County where it is treated and put it into the ocean. Unfortunately, other major Southern California counties, like Los Angeles and San Diego, don’t have these systems and, therefore, have a harder time treating salt build up.

“In terms of agriculture, salt management is a silent killer,” said Cantú. She explained that agricultural farmers used to flood irrigate their crops, which was inefficient from a conservation aspect but effective in moving the salt to below root level. Drip irrigation and limited water use do not move the salt, resulting in build up that, according to Cantú, will likely have a long-term negative impact on agricultural production because many crops are salt sensitive.

Of course, if salt is building up due to limited water use, other minerals and contaminants may be building up as well. One such likely contaminant is perchlorate, which is a legacy problem in the region having entered the groundwater from past industrial and farming practices.

The drought is also drying up lakes and rivers, creating water quality issues for the wildlife that inhabit such bodies of water. Examples include the Salton Sea and Lake Elsinore here in Southern California.

Lake Elsinore. Photo credit: Valley News

“Lake Elsinore has been managed really well and they’ve been able to keep fish kills to a minimum, but the drought poses a serious challenge for water quantity and quality for lakes,” said Cantú.

These, of course, are only a few of the challenges and potential ramifications of the drought. Despite being years into this historic drought, we are still in the early stages of understanding its full impact on water quality. This is in part because the focus is currently on water quantity, but also because it may take another few years before we begin to see more significant damage to water quality in California. As Miller explained, working toward high water quality is a continuous and steadfast process.

“From a water quality standpoint, we like to operate on a big buffer so that we have lots of time to react,” said Miller. “Being proactive about potential water quality issues is key.”

So what does the future hold for water quality in Southern California?

According to Miller we should focus on more sophisticated water recycling programs, utilization of TDS source waters further down the watershed, greater collaboration between agencies, program compensation for less expensive salt treatment, and more groundwater cleanup and use.

Lynch foresees development of more conservation-friendly strategies to preserve water quality. “The irony in a drought is that as water stagnates in the distribution system, the remedy is flushing the system to waste. This is not what we want to do nor is it what our conserving customers want to see,” explained Lynch. “Future strategies will be needed to prevent wasting of flushed water.”

In addition to focusing on water quality issues affecting domestic consumption, agriculture, and wildlife, Cantú suspects that there will likely be more investigation into the potential influence of the drought on constituents other than salt—such as perchlorate, arsenic, and hexavalent chromium—because such constituents are more harmful to human health and therefore greater threats to water quality.

While the extent to which the drought will negatively affect water quality in Southern California is still unclear, there is one known truth succinctly summarized by Cantú:

“As the drought continues—and we have every reason to believe it will—we have to make every drop go as far as possible.”


Special thanks to Craig Miller, Celeste Cantú, and Gary Lynch for their expertise and assistance with this piece.

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