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December 19, 2010

In 35-city study, Norman’s water tops results chart

NORMAN — Although the amount is slight and measured in parts per billion, an independent lab test on Norman’s tap water places the level of hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, among the highest of 35 selected U.S. cities tested this year.

The tests measured levels of tap water contaminated by the carcinogenic chemical that came to national attention in the 2000 feature film “Erin Brockovich.”

The tests were done by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit that specializes in environmental research and advocacy. It is made up of scientists, public policy experts, lawyers and computer researchers. Funding for the report came from the John Merck Fund, the Johnson Family foundation, the Park Foundation and the Turner Foundation.

The Transcript obtained an early copy of the study scheduled for release tonight.

According to EWG, the sample of Norman’s water taken in the Spring of 2010 tested at 12.90 parts per billion of chromium-6. California recently proposed setting a public health goal of 0.06 parts per billion. The town of Hinkley, made famous by the “Erin Brockovich” feature film starring Julia Roberts, tested as high as 550 parts per billion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not set a legal limit for chromium-6 in tap water and does not require water utilities such as Norman to test for it.

City officials on Friday said they had not been notified of the study and were unaware of any concerns with the city’s water supply which is monitored by state and federal agencies as well as the city itself. They confirmed they do not test specificially for chromium-6 which is a subset of the total chromium level.

Norman’s total chromium readings on its wells range from 20 to 80 compared to an EPA maximum limit of 100. Treated water coming directly from the plant would be lower because of the process to remove metals.

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