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Portland Water Bureau

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Response to EPA Recommendations to Test for Hexavalent Chromium in Drinking Water

In response to a report by the national Environmental Working Group on possible hexavalent chromium (chromium-6) contamination in drinking water, the Portland Water Bureau wants to reassure customers that our water is safe to drink. Chromium is found in several forms and is naturally found in the environment. However there are no known sources of chromium-6 in Portland’s highly protected drinking water sources, the Bull Run and Columbia South Shore Wellfield. These measures protect Portland’s drinking water from industrial contaminants such as hexavalent chromium.


The Water Bureau monitors for total chromium three-times a year from the Bull Run and every time the groundwater is operated – far more often than is required. Chromium was not detected in 30 of 33 samples tested from the Bull Run since 2000. Of the detections, the highest level of total chromium was 0.003 mg/L (3 ppb), more than 30 times below the MCL.

Hexavalent chromium is not a regulated contaminant and has not been tested separately in Portland’s drinking water. The federal EPA recently released recommendations and sampling methods for drinking water providers to test for hexavalent chromium on a quarterly basis. The Portland Water Bureau is developing a sampling plan that will, at a minimum, meet these recommendations.

The Portland Water Bureau continues to support research by the EPA, the Water Research Foundation, and other government and scientific organizations to provide guidance to water utilities regarding contaminant monitoring. The EPA continues to conduct a risk assessment on hexavalent chromium, which will be completed in 2011.

Customers with specific questions are encouraged to call the Water Bureau’s Water Line at (503) 823-7525.


-Sarah Bott


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