They are everywhere — in toothpaste, on pizza boxes and non-stick cookware, and in area groundwater — and these manmade chemicals, according to Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency officials, have been known to cause adverse health effects.
On Wednesday morning, SCV Water formally introduced the community to a new groundwater treatment facility on Valley Center Drive in Canyon Country that’s now restoring local groundwater at a well there that’s been affected by PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
“From day one,” SCV Water board President Gary Martin said during the ceremony, “our board has taken a proactive stance when it comes to timely decisions and important resources for tackling PFAS. Our role is to ensure our customers have safe, reliable water supply indefinitely.”
Martin added that in light of the rain that had come the previous night, another foreseeable drought makes local groundwater all the more essential.
According to SCV Water General Manager Matt Stone, it’s that local, reliable water supply that reduces the agency’s reliance on costly imported water.
Mike Alvord, director of operations and maintenance at SCV Water, told The Signal after the ribbon-cutting ceremony that Santa Clarita Valley has 45 water wells. Only 21, he said, were in operation before SCV Water created the new Valley Center Well Groundwater Treatment Facility to put the well there back online.
“Some of (the offline wells) are on the far east end, and the groundwater levels are too low,” he said, “so, we typically don’t operate those.”
Other wells, he added, were taken offline due to mechanical issues, and, of course, some, like the one on Valley Center Drive, were taken offline about three years ago because tests conducted at the time showed PFAS in the groundwater.
There at Wednesday morning’s ribbon-cutting event to congratulate SCV Water for their latest accomplishment were several area dignitaries, including representatives from the offices of Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, along with city of Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste and Mayor Pro Tem Jason Gibbs.
Kris Hough from Wilk’s office told those at the event that Wilk, who was instrumental in the creation of SCV Water as a merger of the Castaic Lake Water Agency and Newhall County Water District, was proud of the work being done, and appreciative.
“I have to say, I was sitting in the room in 2019,” Hough told SCV Water officials during the ceremony. “You had a big meeting with quite a few of us here talking about this PFAS thing, and I was thinking, ‘I can’t use my frying pan anymore because it has that, you know, PFAS on it.’ I immediately threw it away.”
Hough took it seriously, as did SCV Water when, in 2014, according to a PFAS fact sheet on SCV Water’s website, the state’s Environmental Protection Agency required water agencies to begin testing groundwater for PFAS.
“And then,” said SCV Water Communications Manager Kathie Martin (no relation to Gary Martin), “(the state) came back and said, ‘OK, if you had a (positive) result, we need to test everything within a mile of that.’”
Gary Martin said the Valley Center Well Groundwater Treatment Facility, which came at a cost of $5.5 million, is the second of its kind in the valley, and already a third one is in the works in an effort to get more area wells back online and ensure that residents have enough resources for the future.
“Finding people that think proactively,” Gary Martin told The Signal about SCV Water after the event, “and be able to see what’s coming and not just solve the problem of today, but the problem of a year, two years, five years from now, is important. Always look for a better way, a more effective way.”
The new Valley Center Well Groundwater Treatment Facility will, according to an SCV Water news release, restore enough water to serve up to 1,000 families annually, producing 1,200 gallons per minute on average. The facility, which includes two vessels, pumps, motors and ancillary equipment, treats water through synthetic ion adsorption.
For more information about the facility, future projects and PFAS, go to YourSCVWater.com.