SCV Water releases report on wells

Construction workers drill into the soil to build a new water treatment facility next to the Wm. S. Hart Pony Baseball & Softball field in Santa Clara River wash Monday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

The majority of the groundwater wells currently drawing water for the SCV Water agency contain enough of a non-stick chemical, which is a suspected carcinogen, that water officials are now required by the state to notify the county about the find.

Of the agency’s 45 operational wells, 29 of them were found to contain tiny amounts of of perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid. 

On Wednesday, the agency issued a news release saying water officials found, in November, one more well in excess of the state’s nonregulatory notification levels.

This well was in addition to 28 wells identified during the previous rounds of sampling carried out between May and August 2019. 

The two chemicals are in a class of chemicals known as PFAS.

News of the latest contamination means minuscule amounts of PFAS have now been found in at least 66% of the agency’s working wells, from Sand Canyon to Castaic.

Half the drinking water supplied to homes and businesses in the SCV comes from local groundwater wells, on average. The other half is supplied by the state from Northern California under the State Water Project.

Treatment facility 

“Like many communities across the nation, small amounts of PFAS have shown up in some of our water supply. We have a treatment facility that will be online by summer, and we will continue to seek the best strategies to attack this issue,” SCV Water General Manager Matt Stone was quoted as saying in the news release.

“Our customers are our top priority, and we are committed to rigorously testing 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,” he said.

In August 2019, the State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Drinking Water, updated state guidelines and lowered the notification levels by more than half, to 6.5 parts per trillion for PFOS and 5.1 ppt for PFOA, making them some of the most stringent guidelines in the nation. 

Agency officials pointed out, however, that 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.

Notification levels

Notification levels are a nonregulatory, precautionary reporting level for concentrations in drinking water that warrant notification and further monitoring and assessment. 

When water registers above the notification level, it is reported to the DDW, as well as the SCV Water governing board, the Santa Clarita City Council, and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors within 30 days of official results from the testing laboratory.

Results were presented to members of the SCV Water board Tuesday.

Customers are expected to be notified of the discovery through SCV Water’s annual Consumer Confidence Report as well as the agency’s website and e-newsletter. 

All of the agency’s 73,000 of SCV Water’s customers are expected to receive a direct mail postcard this month with information about PFAS.

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

SCV Water continues to monitor its groundwater supplies through proactive quarterly sampling and will rely on its diverse water supply portfolio, including imported and banked water sources, in order to minimize any supply impacts to its customers, Stone noted. 

Issue addressed

SCV Water is developing a plan to address the issue. 

Construction is slated to begin this February on a $5 million water treatment facility for three agency wells next to the William S. Hart Baseball/Softball League ballfields. 

This project is expected to provide treatment for a substantial portion of groundwater impacted by PFAS chemicals.

It is expected to treat up to 6,250 gallons of water per minute — enough to serve more than 5,000 families for a year. 

SCV Water is one of more than 200 water systems in California required to sample for PFOS and PFOA chemicals this year.

These chemicals enter the environment through treated wastewater discharge, landfills and areas where the substances were used outdoors.

Exposure to these chemicals may cause adverse health effects.

Health concerns
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;
  • and cancer, for PFOA chemicals.

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

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