VIDEO: Orange County gets proactive on PFAS

VIDEO: Orange County gets proactive on PFAS

Pre-empting changes in PFAS removal

With PFAS reported to be present in 610 locations across 43 states in the US, it raises the question of what are these “forever chemicals” and how did they get into water supplies?

Known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), these chemicals are part of a larger group referred to as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Resistant to heat, grease and water, these manmade chemicals have been used in many consumer products, including non-stick saucepans, fire extinguisher foam and paints, from as far back as the 1940s.

While PFOA and PFAS are no longer manufactured in the US, they are still used in imported products.

Over the years they have found their way into the environment through landfill sites, conventionally treated wastewater and military sites and other sources, including PFAS manufacturing sites.

The video below from the Orange County Water District (OCWD) gives a great explanation of PFAS and why they are present in the environment.

 

Pre-empting changes in PFAS removal

OCWD is investing $1.4 million into what it has called the "nation's largest PFAS pilot programme", together with engineering firm, Carollo.

The pilot programme aims to "explore long-term solutions to ensure that water supplies continue to meet all state and federal water quality standards".

Addressing PFAS in a video interview with Aquatech Global, Mike Markus, general manager at OCWD, said: "This is a huge issue for us. The state of California is trying to determine the regulation for PFAS. And we have what are called response levels.”

Currently, these levels are set at a combination of PFOA and PFOS at 70 nanograms per litre.

However, the state is expected to separate those into individual response levels and is looking at setting a response level for PFOA at 10 nanograms per litre and PFOS at 40 nanograms per litre.

"If they do set them at those low levels, and those are extremely low levels, we will lose about a third of the pumping out of our groundwater basin,” added Markus.

Treatment options for PFAS

Groundwater currently supplies 77 per cent of the total water demands for about 2.5 million people in Orange County.

OCWD is currently working with its retail water agencies to come up with schemes to be able to treat PFAS at the wellhead.

According to Markus, the two primary technologies to treat PFAS are granulated activated carbon or ion exchange.

The pilot testing includes looking at 10 different carbons and four different resins, to see “which ones would work the best”.

Elsewhere, 21 states are estimated to have established policies to protect drinking water sources from PFAS, according to a AWWA briefing document.

The AWWA said that as well as activated carbon and ion exchange, membrane filtration is a third widely applied technology for PFAS reduction.

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