OCWD Update
May 29, 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, and near industries that use PFAS chemicals in their manufacturing processes.  

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:
On the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has extended the public comment period until June 10 for its Preliminary Regulatory Determination regarding the need to establish enforceable drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, as well as regulating PFAS individually or collectively. On May 21, the American Water Works Association  submitted comments  to the EPA on this matter and issued an accompanying  press release :
“AWWA welcomes a robust scientific review of the toxicological research that is available,” the comments stated. “Attributing specific health effects to PFOA and PFOS is complicated and different toxicologists have come to very different conclusions based on the available data. These conclusions are so different as to have substantial implications for regulatory thresholds and drinking water treatment.”
AWWA’s comments pointed out that existing state and federal statutory authorities -- the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act -- are not being effectively applied to stop PFAS from entering U.S. surface water and ground water. “Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) standards are not intended to be the trigger for protective actions, but rather the failsafe for when other best available business practices and regulatory barriers have failed,” AWWA wrote. “If drinking water standards are to be developed, then these authorities should be used to minimize drinking water supply contamination.” 
In California, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) continues to work on developing draft Public Health Goals for PFOA and PFOS, and OCWD is providing input on that process, as appropriate. The state is aiming to have the Maximum Contaminant Levels for PFOA and PFOS complete by Fall of 2023. 

Additionally, the Division of Drinking Water has requested Notification Levels and Response Levels for seven additional PFAS from OEHHA based on statewide data from the 2019 monitoring orders.
And, California water agencies are awaiting new drinking water testing orders from the Division of Drinking Water to direct the next round of testing for PFOA and PFOS. The Division of Drinking Water has indicated that new monitoring orders should be issued by July 1 of this year and will be expanded from the 2019 orders, including more agencies and potentially additional compounds, with required testing to begin either in the 3rd or 4th quarter. Once the orders are received, OCWD will again be assisting retailers in testing for PFAS in their wells during a presumed four-quarter testing period. OCWD will continue to work closely with state regulators and provide you with updates as we get them. 
OCWD continues to assist retail agencies as they prepare to construct new treatment facilities. In January of this year, the Board authorized a Request for Quotes (RFQ) for pre-purchasing up to 150 treatment vessels (75 treatment systems at two vessels per system). After reviewing proposals, OCWD voted this month to order a total of 55 PFAS treatment vessel systems from Aqueous Vets and Evoqua. The recommended action will significantly reduce the amount of time it will take to construct the producers’ PFAS treatment systems. It’s estimated that pre-purchasing treatment vessel systems could reduce construction time by six to eight months.

OCWD is also considering litigation to recover the extensive costs associated with removing PFAS from water supplies. The OC Register recently covered these initial legal steps:

OCWD continues to monitor the CDC Multi-Site PFAS Study. Dr. Scott Bartell from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) is the principal investigator for one of the seven sites and he presented an update to OCWD and retail water agencies and invited participation in the UCI study's Water Quality Panel. A meeting of this panel is slated to occur in June.

Also in June, OCWD will host a webinar titled "PFAS: Encouraging Results Seen in OCWD Pilot Study." In this webinar, scheduled for June 23 at 10 a.m., OCWD and Jacobs will share preliminary test results and talk about next steps in the program's process. Registration is now open.
Congress is working on bi-partisan Water Infrastructure legislation: S. 3590 the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act, which includes $300 million per year for two years for PFAS grants through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Also, S. 3591 America's Water Infrastructure Act has $7.2 billion in Clean Water State Revolving Funding included. The bills are expected to be a priority for both the House and Senate but are subject to enactment and then Appropriations of the funding.
In California, AB 2560 (Quirk) is co-sponsored by OCWD and the California Municipal Utilities Association and is a transparency bill related to Notification and Response Levels. AB 2560 was heard on May 14 in the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee and passed unanimously. It will next be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee which assesses the potential cost of legislation.
PFOA and PFOS are not exclusive to Orange County or even California. States across the country are in the midst of tackling PFAS in consumer products, groundwater supplies and other forms of contact. OCWD continues to monitor what is happening around the country on this issue.