SCV Water shuts down well after testing for suspected carcinogen

Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency

SCV Water has shut down one of its wells after tests for a non-stick chemical revealed levels that exceeded the response level — a level set by the state calling for the removal of a drinking water source.

The chemical is part of a family of manmade chemicals referred to as PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances).

Although there are many industrial uses for PFAS, it’s perhaps most commonly known as the non-stick component that went into making Teflon useful in non-stick pans.

State officials are currently trying to figure out what constitutes a safe level of PFAS in drinking water, since one of its component chemicals is a suspected carcinogen.

The level currently set for PFAS exceeded the level requiring local water officials to respond and take the well out of service.

In May, as part of its quarterly sampling required by the State Water Resources Control Board — Division of Drinking Water — SCV Water sampled 15 wells for PFAS chemicals.

Of the wells tested, 8 were above the interim notification levels set by DDW.  A notification level is one set lower than the one requiring action.

The one well containing PFAS that exceeded the response level was immediately removed from service.

“We are taking immediate steps to address the detected levels of these substances in our groundwater source. Based on interim guidance from the state, we have removed one well from service,” said Matt Stone, the agency’s general manager.

“We have convened a ‘strike team’ of key staff and outside experts to assess treatment and other strategies that we can put in place,” he said.

Initial goals of the strike team include formulating a sampling plan for all agency wells currently in service as well as investigating potential treatment options and placement.

The PFAS family of chemicals — called polyfluroroalkyl substances — is a group of manmade chemicals that are heat-resistant, almost indestructible and are used to repel oil and water.

The chemical family also includes chemicals lumped into two subgroups.  One is called perfluorooctanoic acid — referred to as PFOA — and
polyfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS.

Studies indicate that both PFOA and PFOS can have reproductive, developmental, liver, kidney, thyroid and immunological effects in laboratory animals. Both sets of chemicals have caused tumors in animals.

With regards to humans, studies show increased cholesterol levels, liver enzymes and uric acid among exposed populations with more limited findings related to:

  • Decreased infant birth weights.
  • Negative effects on the immune system, including decreased response to vaccinations.
  • Cancer, for PFOA chemicals.

The PFAS family of chemical was widely manufactured in the U.S. between 1950 and 2015, and are primarily used in industrial and consumer products to repel grease, moisture, oil, water and stains.

Their presence is pervasive throughout the environment worldwide.

State and federal efforts are underway to set maximum contaminant levels for drinking water.

For more detail on the issue, SCV Water has developed an information sheet on PFAS, which can be found at sheet.

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