Resident: St. Helens withheld info from water report

Detectable levels of hexavalent chromium don't pose threat to public

Thomas O'Hanlon said he found EPA water test results that were excluded from the city's annual report, September 27, 2016. (KOIN)

ST. HELENS, Ore. (KOIN) — Water quality tests done for the Environmental Protection Agency in St. Helens last year showed detectable levels of chromium, but the city failed to disclose that information in their annual water report.

While the levels detected don’t indicate a danger to the public, some residents say they’re concerned about the city’s decision to withhold that information from them.

Pipes at the City of St. Helens' Drinking Water Treatment Plant, September 27, 2016. (KOIN)
Pipes at the City of St. Helens’ Drinking Water Treatment Plant, September 27, 2016. (KOIN)

St. Helens resident Thomas O’Hanlon told KOIN 6 News he found a report online that showed the city tested 8 water samples for the EPA in 2015. Each test found varying levels of hexavalent chromium, O’Hanlon said.

But in the city’s 2015 annual water report, those results weren’t mentioned.

“They actually said no detectable levels of chromium were detected, but in regards to the EPA they had detectable results,” O’Hanlon said. “So that was my conflict.”

The city’s report showed detectable levels for 6 other contaminants, all well below maximum contamination levels, but there was no mention of hexavalent chromium.

City of St. Helens 2015 Water Quality Report

City Administrator John Walsh said he wasn’t concerned about it.

“We meet or exceed the state federal guidelines,” Walsh explained, adding that since 2001, the State of Oregon and EPA stopped requiring chromium testing.

Walsh said testing was done for the EPA in 2015 to determine if chromium testing should be required in the future. Either way, Walsh said he points to the levels averaging 0.17 ppb, far below the EPA’s action level of 100 ppb.

“If there’s any concern… we want that information available to the public,” he said.

Still, O’Hanlon said he thinks any contaminants found in the city’s water supply should be classified as detectable. He said including that information, no matter how small, in the city’s annual water report will help establish accountability and transparency.

Walsh said it’s something the city will start to do.