A closer look at where a cancer-causing chemical was found in SWFL tap water

Posted at 7:27 AM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-23 07:27:25-04

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA -- Health concerns are being raised over your tap water.  A new study reveals a cancer-causing chemical has been detected in up to two-thirds of the nation's water supply, including right here in Southwest Florida.

14 different water systems were tested through out Lee, Charlotte, and Collier counties, and more than half of them tested positive for chromium-6.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Chromim-6 Test Results

Fox 4 went to two of the facilities that tested positive for the chemical and found that the residents who use the water had no idea they may have consumed the cancer-causing chemical.

Before tap water flows into your home, it goes through rigorous testing at a treatment plant.  The goal is to filter out harmful chemicals.

However, a recent study revealed many local residents at one point drank water tainted with a cancer-causing chemical known as chromium-6.

Fox 4 talked to a mother and grandmother who have lived next to Winkler pump station for a decade.  Last year, it became one of 6 water plants in Lee County which tested positive for chromium-6 between 2013 and 2015.

"We use it in our cooking, so that is a big concern.  And I would want to know what else they're going to do for that to keep us safe," says Maribel Maldonado.

Health officials tell Fox 4 they are doing something.

The EPA requires local health departments to regularly test for chromium in our tap waters.  But it doesn't require a specific test solely for chromium-6 -- a known carcinogen linked to lung cancer, and gastrointestinal tumors.

On average, Lee County's tap facilities which tested positive had levels 3 times higher than the recommended goal of .02 ppb set by California health hazard officials.

A plant in Cape Coral was the only one that tested positive for the chemical in 2014, at a rate 34 times higher than the recommended levels.

"I find it pretty disappointing because I drink a lot of water everyday and I'm not trying to get cancer. I drink water to be healthy not unhealthy," said Seth Woods.

In Collier County, which had the highest amounts of the chemical in our region, the average was 8 times higher than what's recommended.

Charlotte County was closest to safety goal of .O2 with an average of just .0264 ppb.

Fox 4 did some digging and found that filtration systems that use the method known as "reverse osmosis" are the best at filtering out chromium-6.  There are several utility companies that use that method in our area.

You can find out how your local water provider filters your tap by visiting their website.