OCWD Update
April 27, 2020
The Orange County Water District (OCWD) actively manages the local groundwater basin to deliver clean, reliable drinking water to 2.5 million customers every day. OCWD and the retail water agencies in its service area are committed to operating in compliance with all state and federal guidelines and regulatory requirements.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manmade chemicals prevalent in the environment and commonly used in many consumer products. Through an ongoing investigation, California and many other states have found that PFAS chemicals, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) have made their way into groundwater supplies, including near airports and military bases where these chemicals are commonly used.

OCWD and local water retailers are actively engaged with federal and state regulators and elected and appointed officials on this issue. As part of its commitment to transparency, OCWD provides regular PFAS updates to community stakeholders. 

For more background information, please see the materials below:
California water systems have not yet received new drinking water testing orders from the Division of Drinking Water (DDW) since the new Response Levels came out in February. DDW has indicated that monitoring orders will go out for the third quarter (July) of this year. It’s anticipated that the new orders will include additional testing beyond what was required by the first monitoring orders issued in 2019. Once the orders are received, OCWD will again be assisting local water systems in testing for PFAS in their wells. OCWD will continue to work closely with state regulators and provide you with updates as we get them. 

The state is also continuing to work toward issuing a draft Public Health Goal for PFOA and PFOS in the first half of this year. It is also working to develop Notification and Response Levels for seven additional PFAS compounds.

In March, the State Water Board released an  update of their PFAS Investigation Summary . The update highlights that from data reported through September 2019, PFOA, PFOS and other PFAS chemicals have been detected in roughly 50 percent of the wells sampled under statewide monitoring orders. 

The presence of PFAS in local groundwater supplies calls for extraordinary action. OCWD is currently operating a pilot testing program to test various treatment options for PFAS and to assist retailers in determining the most appropriate treatment plan going forward. To further assist retailers, OCWD has been working to develop a framework for supporting the implementation of new treatment facilities that individual retailers will need. OCWD’s Board of Directors has authorized a significant agreement with its retail agencies to guide next steps in advancing new treatment facilities that will remove PFAS from drinking water supplies. 

The OCWD Board finalized a legal agreement and legal retainer regarding potential litigation aimed at recovering costs related to PFAS. 

OCWD is also coordinating with the CDC and UC Irvine as they prepare for the start of the Multi-Site Epidemiological PFAS Study. OCWD has participated in initial meetings with both organizations to hear updates and share materials and background on PFAS in Orange County. District staff will be participating in additional meetings going forward in order to provide input and receive updates on status. It's anticipated that there will be many opportunities for individual water utilities to provide input as the study process begins. The study is still on hold due to needed approval from the Office of Management and Budget. Furthermore, as this is a participant-based research study, it is suspended due to COVID-19.

The planning study OCWD is conducting with Carollo and retail agencies is approaching completion. Reports are being finalized and the district is working directly with individual agencies. Some treatment plant agreements have already been finalized. OCWD anticipates treatment will be up and running within one to three years. In the coming weeks OCWD will be determining how many vessels will need to be ordered for treatment plants and plans to bring this recommendation to its first board meeting in May.

The OCWD pilot study has been ongoing for four months, and in recent weeks we have started to see some initial breakthrough of PFAS compounds on some of the granular activated carbon products. We have not yet seen any breakthrough on ion exchange products or novel adsorbents. 
There are four bills pending in the state legislature, however due to COVID-19, it’s uncertain if legislation related to PFAS will move this year. Below are four of the bills we are following closely:

SB 1056 (Portantino) requires the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to certify a total PFAS method by 2022. This bill would require the state board, on or before January 1, 2022, to certify a methodology or methodologies for testing drinking water, groundwater, and surface water for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, as provided, and to accredit qualified laboratories in California to analyze perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances pursuant to the adopted methodology or methodologies.

AB 2560 (Quirk) is co-sponsored by OCWD and the California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA) and deals with Notification and Response Level procedures. The bill is a priority for the author, but it is uncertain if it will move this year. The bill outlines that when establishing or revising Notification or Response Levels, the state board shall do all of the following:
(a) Electronically post on its internet website and distribute through email a notice informing interested persons that the state board has initiated the development of a notification or response level.
(b) Electronically post on its internet website and distribute through electronic mail a notice that a draft notification or response level is available. The notice shall include an electronic link to an internet webpage where the draft level can be viewed electronically along with the complete studies that were used to establish the level. Notice and document availability shall occur at least 45 calendar days before finalizing the notification or response level. The state board shall include the draft level as an informational item during a regularly noticed meeting of the state board.
(c) Submit its draft notification or response level for external peer review using the process described in Section 57004.
(d) Take a formal action to finalize and adopt the notification or response level.

SB 996 (Portantino) is co-sponsored by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and CMUA and deals with the Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) Program within the SWRCB. The bill would require the Board to establish and then maintain an ongoing, dedicated program for CEC to support and conduct assessments on and provide recommendations of issues with water that may pose a risk to the public. In addition, the Board would create a Science Advisory Panel to gather and develop information for the program. The bill would require the program to provide opportunities for public participation through the creation of a Stakeholder Advisory Group. Finally, it would also establish in the State Treasury the CEC Action Fund, which would be administered by the Board.  

SB 1044 (Allen) would prohibit the use of PFAS in firefighting foam by 2022. This bill, commencing January 1, 2022, would require: 1) a written notice to the purchaser of firefighter personal protective equipment containing PFAS and require the seller and the purchaser to retain the notice on file for at least 3 years, 2) would prohibit sale in the state of class B firefighting foam to which PFAS chemicals have been intentionally added, 3) would prohibit a person or public entity from discharging or otherwise using for training purposes class B firefighting foam that contains intentionally added PFAS chemicals, and would provide that a violation of this prohibition is punishable by a specified civil penalty.