Orange County Shuts Down Groundwater Wells Due to PFAS

Jan. 29, 2020

Orange County, California will see groundwater wells shut down due to PFAS contamination.

Nearly a third of the 200 groundwater wells in the Orange County Water District’s service area will be shut down by the end of 2020 because of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Nine of the wells have already been closed and 32 more are expected to be closed in the next few weeks, according to the OCRegister. Up to 31 additional wells could be shut down after testing is expanded. The district manages a groundwater basin that provides 77% of the water used by 19 member agencies, which pump water from wells in central and north Orange County.

The water district launched a $1.4 million pilot treatment project in December 2019 to evaluate the best type of filter to remove PFAS, reported the OCRegister. Treatment facilities will be constructed in each of its nine member districts and possibly two other districts that have reported PFAS in their well water. According to Michael Markus, general manager of the Orange County Water District, the district is hoping to have them up and running in two years. 

In the meantime, the districts affected are importing more water from northern California and the Colorado River, according to the OCRegister.

In July 2018, the state Division of Drinking Water established a requirement that cities and counties are to be notified by their water agencies if perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) appeared in water in concentrations of 14 parts per trillion (ppt) and 13 ppt for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), which were lowered to 5.1 ppt and 6.5 ppt respectively.

Since 2019, the state has recommended closing wells if combined levels of PFOA and PFAS reached 70 ppt, according to the U.S. EPA

State lawmakers passed a law effective Jan. 1 requiring water agencies to note the detection of any level of PFAS in the annual water quality reports issues to consumers, reported OCRegister.

The Orange County Water District’s pilot treatment project in Anaheim will likely be finished by the end of 2020. A coinciding study is identifying specific locations for the treatment facilities, according to OCRegister.

Total construction costs are estimated at $180 million to $200 million and will initially be covered by the Orange County Water District. Construction-related increases in water costs will likely be shared by customers in all 19 member agencies, as well as the eight agencies that do not expect to find PFAS in their wells.

The average home in a district with PFAS treatment will likely pay $3 more a month for water, while the average home in a non-PFAS district will likely pay $1 more a month, reported OCRegister.

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