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Lawsuit filed over Brockovich chemical
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FRESNO (AP) — Environmental groups filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the California Department of Public Health for failing to establish a safe drinking water standard for the cancer-causing chemical made famous in the film "Erin Brockovich."

The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group claim the department is eight years late in setting the hexavalent chromium standard and has made no progress toward the goal.

The lawsuit claims the delay is unjustified and seeks a court order setting a faster timeline.

Studies show that hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6, can cause cancer in people and has been found to cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract, lymph nodes and liver of animals.

The chemical comes chiefly from industrial pollution — it's used for production of stainless steel, textile dyes, wood preservation, leather tanning and as an anti-corrosive — but also occurs naturally.

The dangers of chromium-6 became widely known after the film "Erin Brockovich" exposed the case of Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. The utility was accused of leaking the contaminant into the groundwater of Hinckley, a small desert town, causing health problems including cancer.

A year later in 2001, the California legislature directed public health agencies to set an enforceable drinking water standard for the chemical by 2004

Sheriff investigates blast at Bass Lake courthouse

BASS LAKE  (AP) — A complex of Madera County government offices in the Sierra mountain town of Bass Lake is closed after an incendiary device shattered glass doors at the facility early Tuesday.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Karen Guillemin says emergency crews received a call about the explosion at 4:14 a.m. When firefighters arrived they found broken doors, char marks and paint damage at the facility.

Madera County sheriff's Lt. Michael Salvador says the investigation is "still in relative infancy," and it's too early to determine whether anything was stolen. He said the department has not determined a motive for the incident.

The building serves primarily as a satellite courthouse for the remote mountainous region of Madera County.

The facility is expected to be open again Wednesday.

Southern California home prices rise in July


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Southern California home prices jumped to their highest levels in nearly four years last month, lifted by sales in pricier coastal regions, a research firm said Tuesday.

The median price for new and existing houses and condominiums in the six-county region reached $306,000 in July, up 8.1 percent from $283,000 the same period last year, DataQuick reported. It was the fourth straight month that the median price rose from last year and the highest level since $308,500 in September 2008.

Sales jumped to 20,588 homes, up 13.8 percent from 18,090 homes last year, DataQuick said. It was the seventh straight month that sales climbed a year earlier.