Should you think twice before drinking water from the Colorado River? According to Las Vegas Sun reporter Emily Green, the answer is an urgent yes. Green reports on an underground plume of water contaminated with deadly chromium VI that is inching closer to a section of the Colorado River that supplies millions of southern Californians with their drinking water. Pacific Gas & Electricof Erin Brockovich fameused the chromium in the 1950s and 60s, before the chemical was declared illegal by the EPA.

Greens 2,600-word article vividly weaves together the science, history, and politics surrounding the problem. She educates the layman on the properties of chromium VI, which was used as an anticorrosive cooling agent before its toxicity was discovered. She also impresses on the reader the various complications surrounding the cleanup process. For one, the plume occupies a parcel of land on the Arizona-California border that lies in close proximity to a sacred Native American landmark. For another, at least nine government agencies have been involved in the fight against the plume, sometimes at cross-purposes. Most important, Green manages to make the technical details of the story engaging, perhaps because the piece reads less like a standard news report and more like a whimsical but informative magazine feature.

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