Local water officials tackle emerging national problem

Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency

SCV Water Agency board members discussed ways of tackling the problem of a non-stick chemical suspected of being carcinogenic in 17 agency wells, after being informed of the issue earlier this week.

On Tuesday night, members of the agency’s board received official word from staffers that trace amounts of a chemical called PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, were found in 17 of its wells, requiring them to now notify key agencies about the discovery.

The trace amounts were so minuscule that none of wells required being shut down under state-set guidelines.

“Like many communities across the nation, we are finding tiny amounts of PFAS in our water supply,” Matt Stone, the agency’s general manager, wrote in a statement issued Tuesday. “We are taking immediate steps to tackle these substances through new strategies and proven treatment options.

“Our customers are our top priority, and we are committed to rigorously testing and treating our water thousands of times per year to ensure it meets or surpasses all water-quality standards and is safe to drink for our customers.”

The agency has already begun work on a new $5 million “quick-start” water treatment plant next to the William S. Hart Pony Baseball & Softball park to remove the chemical from groundwater in the Santa Clara River.

In August, the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water handed down new guidelines for local water agencies to follow in detecting and reporting the presence of the two chemicals in drinking water that make up PFAS — perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).

The state lowered the notification levels by more than half, to 6.5 parts per trillion for PFOS and 5.1 ppt for PFOA. Under these new levels, more wells fell within notification levels. 

One well was removed from service in May when it exceeded DDW’s interim response level of a combined 70 ppt for PFOS and PFOA. 

This interim response level is expected to be reviewed by the DDW this fall, agency spokeswoman Kathie Martin said Tuesday.

For perspective, she noted, one part per trillion is a microscopic measurement for something in the water and would be equal to four grains of sugar in an Olympic-size swimming pool. 

SCV Water customers are expected to be notified by the agency through its website, newsletter and annual Consumer Confidence Report on water quality.

“We are committed to transparently communicating all water quality changes and how we plan to address them with our customers,” Stone said Tuesday.

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