OCWD Update
October 2020
The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) strives to deliver clean, reliable drinking water to 2.5 million customers every day. OCWD and the local water suppliers in its service area are committed to operating in compliance with all state and federal guidelines and regulatory requirements.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are chemicals that are prevalent in the environment and were once commonly used in many consumer products. Through ongoing investigations, California and many other states have found that PFAS have made their way into groundwater nationwide due to releases from a number of sources, including airports and fire training centers associated with the use of firefighting foam, and industrial facilities where PFAS were used in the manufacturing process.

PFAS have been detected in the Orange County Groundwater Basin. OCWD provides regular PFAS updates to community stakeholders to inform them of the proactive measures that the District and local water suppliers have taken to address PFAS in the Basin. 

For more background information, please see the materials below:
New PFAS monitoring orders were formally issued by the state Division of Drinking Water (DDW) in Sept. to 15 local water suppliers in OCWD's service area for a total of 86 individual wells. The orders require year long quarterly testing beginning in the fourth quarter of 2020. OCWD began sampling this month and should be finished in early Nov. The results could identify additional impacted wells needing treatment.

While the state originally planned on issuing draft Public Health Goals (PHGs) for PFOA and PFOS concurrently with the new orders, the PHGs are now expected to be issued at the end of the year. When they are issued, the draft PHGs will go through a public review process including two public comment periods, one public workshop and an external scientific peer review. In addition, Notification Levels (NL) and Response Levels (RL) for perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS) are expected to be announced in Nov. 2020 and the process will adhere to the requirements for AB 2560, which was recently signed into law but does not take effect until Jan. 2021.

The State Water Resources Control Board received an update from DDW on the statewide investigation technical data on PFAS at its Oct. 7 board meeting.

OCWD responded quickly to new monitoring orders. Testing by the District's water quality and laboratory departments is underway, and the District plans on conducting most fourth quarter testing in Oct. and Nov.; finalizing it before the end of the year.

OCWD and its local water suppliers are also making significant headway on new groundwater treatment facilities. Designs for seven facilities are underway for the cities of Fullerton, Garden Grove, Orange, and Santa Ana; Serrano Water District; East Orange County Water District; and Yorba Linda Water District.

At its Oct. 7 meeting, OCWD's Board voted to accept the bid and award the contract for Fullerton's Kimberly Well 1A. The contract was awarded to Pascal & Ludwig Constructors. The Serrano Water District project is currently out to bid and will be brought to OCWD's Board in November . Construction RFPs for the next two projects, city of Garden Grove and Yorba Linda Water District, are expected to go out by the end of 2020. Operation of Fullerton's treatment facility could begin as early as April 2021.

The OCWD pilot facility continues to run and has now provided more than nine months of data. Some ion exchange (IX), granular activated carbon (GAC) and novel sorbent media are showing promise and distinguishing themselves in terms of performance. The current pilot will continue through December at which time OCWD will determine if the current pilot should continue or new media should be tested.

In other local news, the University California, Irvine (UCI) led PFAS study is still on hold due to COVID-19. UCI's October water quality panel was canceled and will next meet Nov. 10. UCI encourages those who are interested to attend a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine virtual workshop on Oct. 26-27 to review federal government human health research on PFAS and to identify research and data gaps.
As this year's legislative session closed out, three PFAS-related bills were enacted:

AB 2560 (Quirk) Water quality: notification and response levels: procedures.
Establishes a transparent public process for the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) to use when establishing a Notification Level (NL) and Response Level (RL). The bill requires the State Board to notify the public on their website when an NL or RL is being developed or changed, and then again when a proposed NL or RL is available. AB 2560 requires the study or studies used as a base to develop the NL or RL to be made public, if they are disclosable under the Public Records Act. Additionally, the Board must disclose whether the study or studies were peer reviewed and whether only one study was relied upon. The bill requires notice and document availability at least 30 days before the informational item being placed on the State Board’s agenda. However, if the Division of Drinking Water finds that there is a potential for imminent harm to public health then the procedures may be bypassed, but an informational item of the NL and RL changes must be provided within 45 days at a regularly noticed meeting of the State Board.

SB 1044 (Allen): Firefighting equipment and foam: 
PFAS chemicals. 
SB 1044 prohibits the manufacturing, sale and use of firefighting foam that contains PFAS, unless an exemption is granted, by Jan. 1, 2022.

AB 2762, Muratsuchi. Cosmetic products: safety. 
This bill prohibits the manufacturing and sale of any cosmetic product that contains PFAS by 2025 (and a list of several other compounds that are also prohibited by the European Union.)
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.