Water Rates Increasing to Pay for Contaminated Wells

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RIO LINDA -- Ratepayers in Rio Linda will soon pay up to a 23 percent rate increase on their water bill to help cover the cost of fixing six wells contaminated with known carcinogen Chromium 6.

Some experts say Chromium 6 found in California drinking water is often naturally occuring, while others contend it can be a sign of groundwater contamination. Either way, the state of California strengthened its restrictions on Chromium 6, in 2014 changing the standard from 50 parts per billion to just 10 parts per billion, which is still 1/10 of the national standard.

"According to what they're telling me there was no migration of the chromium 6 into these parts," Rio Linda Elverta Community Water District General Manager Ralph Felix said.

Felix told FOX40 at the district's last public hearing, the majority of rate payers (51 percent) did not vote against the rate increase. Monday evening the district approved their plan to increase rates, leaving customer to pay most of the $9 million price tag to replace four contaminated wells with two higher production wells and to treat the two remaining wells.

But some people, who believe the chromium 6 in the water caused their cancer, did not agree with the vote.

"The people of Rio Linda and Elverta did not put the Chromium 6 in the water and so I don't think it's fair that we have to pay this," Anna Marie Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson has been to all the water district meetings, sharing her cancer survival story.

She told FOX40 that in 2010 she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"When I first got the cancer I said it's the water, cause I had already heard the water was contaminated. Then I had to let it go, do my treatments, and when I came out of my treatments and I find more neighbors are getting cancer. Every time I turn around somebody is getting cancer," Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson conducted her own studies and found what she calls several cancer clusters surrounding wells in the community.

She said after Monday night's vote, she planned to take her concerns to the state legislature to ask lawmakers to find funding elsewhere.

"A lot of the people who live here can not afford these rate increases," Tomlinson said.

"I think it's very proactive of them to try to educate the possibly that this could be there. But my job here is to serve the greater good," Felix said.

Felix told FOX40 he's closely monitored the most recent reports out of McClellan Air Force Base, which show no scientific proof that Chromium 6 migrated from its site to the nearby well water.

Felix added the district is seeking grant funding in the amount of around $2 million so that rate payers would pay around $7 million for the well fixes.

Tomlinson says her neighbors shouldn't have to pay any of it.

"A lot of these people can't afford these higher rates," Tomlinson said.