A new state law requiring water districts to test its water reveals that some of the water in the Rio Linda Elverta Community Water District is contaminated with a chemical called chromium 6, a known carcinogen.
That district serves 10,000 people.
“I know it gave me cancer,” Rio Linda resident Anna Marie Tomlinson, who
hasn’t had a sip of her tap water in five years, told FOX40. “I drank it every day.”
It was then, Tomlinson said, that she learned she was the 4th Rio Linda resident on her block to get cancer.
A study released in December of 2014 by the water district proves that chromium 6 is in the water, which would mean officials at the Rio Linda Elverta Community Water District know it’s there and know that the levels exceed the new state standards.
State officials say those levels could be a problem.
“Any level over the maximum contaminant levels is a potential health hazard,” state hydrologist Bruce Burton said.
At a July meeting, customers shared their concerns about the results of a new study released last December by the district. It found that 55 percent of the district’s wells are contaminated, or, six out of 11 wells with chromium 6 levels of 11 to 16 parts per billion. That amount would be equivalent to dropping a sugar cube in an Olympic sized pool.
Chemistry Professor William Casey, who runs the UC Davis Water Research lab, acknowledges that few, if any scientific studies have been done on chromium 6 causing cancer in humans.
“It’s very hard to say something is impossible. It is possible that her cancer was caused by trace amounts of chromium 6,” Casey said.
But statistics, Casey says, indicate it’s highly unlikely that very small, trace amounts of chromium 6, even consumed over many years, can cause cancer.
In his lab, chromium 6 sits in a vial in one of the top cabinets. But in the ground, it can be invisible and present naturally in certain regions across the state.
In Rio Linda, the same study suggests the chromium 6 levels are not naturally present and instead came from construction work done over 30 years ago at the former McClellan Airforce Base. FOX40 reached out to McClellan, but officials did not answer our calls.
Five of the contaminated wells are nearby.
Assemblymember Kevin McCarty wants answers. In June, he wrote a letter to the state water board asking for more to be done, from finding the source of the problem to the impact it might have on families.
“If it is the federal government there at the Air Force base, we need to make sure
they are held accountable to get the water cleaned up,” McCartey wrote.
McCarty is hosting a drinking water town hall meeting in Rio Linda August 13 at the Rio Linda Public Library, on 631 L Street. It will be held 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
If the district’s chromium 6 levels continue to average above the state levels by the end of 2015, state officials will order an issue of compliance.
The water district is looking for solutions, including drilling new wells and treating
the water. The fix could cost millions of dollars.
As for Anna Marie, her cancer has been in remission since March.
“I want whoever is responsible to take responsibility. I want my grandson to be able to drink safe water someday.”
That day, she says, is far away. Until then, veggies are no longer home grown at her house. Lettuce goes unwashed and the tap water, always, down the drain.