Houston, do we have a water problem?

Casey Richardson, Staff Writer



Chromium-6, a harmful chemical known to cause cancer is permeating Houston’s water, especially Alief, according to water samples gathered between 2013-2015 by the Environmental Working Group. The EWG concluded that Alief’s water supply, and the city at large should concern all who live here.

The chemical has been known to increase the risk of cancer and is a nationwide problem not isolated to Houston, with the EWG citing 200 Americans around the country possibly exposed to drinking water with unsafe levels of chromium-6.

According to the EWG’s study, Alief is ground zero in Houston with the highest amount of Chromium-6. In 2014, California became the first state to put a cap on chromium-6, arriving at a value of 10 parts per billion. Researchers in the field argued that the amount was high and pushed for a much lower standard of 0.02 parts per billion, citing that above that level is when it begins to cause cancer.

For residents of Alief, the highest rating in which the EWG recorded chromium-6 was 6.7 ppb,  exceeding the expert’s bar of 0.2 ppb, and raising major concern about what the city is trying to do to counter this imminent crisis.

U.S. Rep. Al Green, representing Texas’ 9th District — most of Alief and the southwest side of Houston — is on the forefront of this issue, writing multiple letters to the chair of the EPA. His first letter, sent in 2016, addressed the issue of Chromium-6, followed by a congressional resolution in 2017. Most recently, Green sent another letter in  october 2019 with the support of other congressmen calling on the EPA to enact federal guidelines about this harmful chemical and to come up with a federal standard parts per billion, like California.

In his letter, Green goes on to ask the EPA for an update on this matter that you would think the people should have a right to know, but nothing. Why hasn’t the EPA responded? What’s troubling is the EPA’s lack of transparency and promptness when addressing this issue. Also equally as puzzling is the city of Houston’s website which has no mention of chromium-6 and simply states the drinking water is “SAFE”. How many people have to get cancer before the EPA takes note? Why haven’t they set federal standards like California? What is holding them up from getting back to Green? There are more unknowns than knowns when it comes to the water in Houston, but the one thing that is certain is that if you drink water out of the faucet, make sure you have a filter attached.