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Update: A half year after Santa Fe began taking water from the Rio Grande (Listen again)
(KSFR) - Original story posted July 21, 2001:

More questions are being raised about the capabilities of Santa Fe's Buckman Direct Diversion plant and about the Chemrisk consulting company that gave it a clean bill of health.

Professional, consulting engineer Mark Sardella of Santa Fe has filed a formal complaint against Chemrisk with the state licensing board.

And we replay an interview with the researcher from the national Environmental Working Group about their conclusion that Chemrisk falsified data from other water studies.

Editor's note, August 18, 2011: There can be any number of reasons to resurrect a story that's already been told. In the case of the consulting firm named Chemrisk that certified the safety of drinking water for Santa Fe coming from the Rio Grande, there are two. One reason is that Chemrisk's lawyers have pointed out, correctly, that KSFR News was not factual when we said in this story that Chemrisk falsified data in an earlier research project. For that, we retract that statement. The source we talked to and the other resources we studied said only that serious questions were raised about a central issue in which Chemrisk was involved.

The second reason for resurrecting the story is that the California EPA, after KSFR aired this story, issued much stricter standards for the allowance of a chemical named Chromium-6 in California drinking water.

California and the federal government had been looking seriously at the question of Chromium-6 more than a decade ago. Then, along came a study, presumably by a Chinese scientist, that put to rest the question of harm from the substance. At the time, California's PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) was being sued over Chromium-6-infected drinking water in the Hinkley, Calif., case made famous by environmental activist Erin Brockovich.

How and why did that Chinese study emerge? Chemrisk worked for PG&E at the time and is said to have helped the Chinese scientist reevaluate his earlier work that had been highly alarming about Chromium-6's health risks. With Chemrisk's help, the Chinese scientist purportedly arrived at new results with different conclusions about the chemical than the had originally put forth. Chemrisk also allegedly helped the Chinese scientist submit the new study to a scientific journal in the U.S. When it was published, much of the heat over Chromium-6 diminished. But that journal eventually retracted the paper because Chemrisk did not disclose potential conflicts of interest about its affiliations, as the journal required.

The publication of that particular paper had the effect of quieting concern over Chromium-6. However, the retraction led the California EPA to reopen the case. The result is the new, stricter standard for Chromium-6 announced by California in late July 2011.

Renee Sharp of the Environmental Working Group also told KSFR that a working group study found Chromium-6 in Albuquerque's tap water, after Albuquerque had begun taking water from the Rio Grande.

This is a reprint of a
2005 Wall Street Journal report on the whole Chromium 6 question.

KSFR News will continue to follow this story.

August 18, 2011

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