The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will be presented with a motion on Tuesday that calls for further investigation of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the county’s drinking water.
The motion calls for the the L.A. County Department of Public Health and the L.A. County Department of Public Works to work with the State Water Resources Control Board to better understand the presence of PFAS in drinking water, enhance testing and advocate for funding and stronger regulations.
The motion will be proposed by 4th District Supervisor Janice Hahn, who said in a news release that she wanted to take on this issue after learning of a study on PFAS that said 45% of drinking water in the nation contains them and that exposure to them may be more common in Southern California.
“My goal with this motion is to figure out the extent of this problem. Our water supply here in L.A. County is controlled and operated by over 200 different water districts that have different procedures for water testing and with this motion we will get information about which districts already test for these forever chemicals and start the work of making sure more widespread testing happens in the future.”
PFAS do not degrade naturally and have been linked to a wide swath of health problems such as immune disorders and certain types of cancers.
The Santa Clarita Valley has a long history with PFAS. While no direct link has ever been proven locally, PFAS have been linked to foam used by fire departments to combat wildfires. PFAS can be found in products used by consumers and industry such as carpets, nonstick cookware and food packaging.
While very much a local problem, Hahn said PFAS have implications that reach beyond the SCV. It very well might be a county-wide issue – but the truth is county leaders don’t have the full picture yet.
In 2020, The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency filed a lawsuit against multiple companies over water contamination, alleging toxic chemicals from products manufactured by those named in the case were discharged into the environment.
Raytheon Technologies, Chemours, DuPont and 3M Co. are among dozens named in the lawsuit “for their roles in introducing PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) into the water supply in Santa Clarita,” according to SCV Water in a news release.
This was after the water agency announced in January 2020 that 66% of its wells, from Sand Canyon to Castaic, were found to have contained PFAS. In December 2020, the agency began to receive water from one of California’s first facilities that restore groundwater affected by PFAS — a $4 million project located adjacent to the William S. Hart Pony Baseball and Softball park that restores up to 6,250 gallons of water per minute.
Since then, the SCV Water Agency acquired new PFAS testing equipment and was honored by the American Public Works Association for its treatment project. This year, the agency received a $5 million grant from the Bureau of Reclamation — supported by Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita.
Plans for a new $16 million restoration plant are underway and it is expected to begin construction in January. The water agency is getting $5 million from the federal government, which is expected to cover almost one-third of the cost of the facility, with the rest of the funds — a little over $11.99 million — being footed by the SCV Water Agency.
In May, SCV Water released its annual report on water quality. The testing sample from the region referred to on the report as the Santa Clarita Water Division service area had the highest average sampling level of PFAs — a level well below the maximum contaminant level but above the level identified as the Public Health Goal.
The latest report indicates a decline in the maximum detected level, but the average levels have increased, according to reports from the last three years, for the SCWD area. That service area provides water to a portion of the city of Santa Clarita and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, including Saugus, Canyon Country and Newhall, with 83% of that water being imported water and 17% local.