Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of man-made compounds, which include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), that have been manufactured and used around the globe since the 1940s. Because of their strong chemical bonds, PFAS were used in a variety of industries and consumer products, such as electroplating,firefighting foams (aqueous film-forming foam [AFFF]), food packaging, non-stick cookware (Teflon™), clothing (Gore-Tex ®), fabric protectant (Scotchgard™), stain-resistant carpet and furniture, and personal care products. Due to widespread use and unauthorized industrial releases, PFAS are found in the air, soil, drinking water supplies, water bodies, and livestock. PFAS are persistent in the environment, can accumulate within the human body over time, and are toxic at relatively low concentrations.
The State Water Resource Control Board, Division of Drinking Water (DDW) established Response Levels (RLs) of 10 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA, 40 ppt for PFOS, and 5,000 ppt for PFBS. RLs are advisory levels above which the DDW recommends taking a drinking water source out of service. Currently, the DDW is developing Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), which are legal threshold limits or standards that cannot be exceeded in drinking water. PFOA and PFOS have been detected above their respective RLs in multiple drinking water wells located within the Central Basin, specifically within the Montebello Forebay.
In response, the WRD Board of Directors launched the PFAS Remediation Program in August 2020, where over $60 million in grant funding was established for water purveyors in the Central Basin and West Coast Basin seeking to install treatment systems to remove PFAS from drinking water wells. The program is one of the first in the State of California to administer grants specifically for the remediation of PFAS-impacted wells. Water purveyors interested in applying for the WRD PFAS Remediation Program may download the Initial Application here:2022 PFAS Remediation Program Application.pdf
The PFAS Remediation Program is an essential part of WRD’s commitment to managing and protecting local groundwater resources for over four million residents living in the 43 cities within Southern Los Angeles County. By acting quickly and supporting water purveyors in their remediation of PFAS-impacted wells, we not only provide safe drinking water, but also prevent unwanted substances from spreading throughout our vital drinking water aquifers and ensure an uninterrupted supply of high-quality groundwater at affordable rates. In addition, WRD continues to work with our State and Federal partners to secure funding to provide treatment for contaminated drinking water sources, especially for low-income communities, where well closures can significantly increase the cost of tap water.
PFAS can be treated by various methods, with the most common ones being ion exchange (IX), granular activated carbon (GAC), and reverse osmosis (RO). These treatment technologies have been accepted by the DDW for the removal of PFAS. The cost to treat wells impacted by PFAS varies based on the level of PFAS contamination, the quantity of water being treated, and the technology selected. In 2021, WRD completed two pilot tests to evaluate the performance and life cycle costs for various IX and GAC media. Results from these pilot tests may aid water purveyors in the design of their PFAS treatment systems. The pilot test reports may be downloaded below.Well # 7 Pilot Test Report.pdfWell # 10 Pilot Test Report.pdf
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals including the most commonly discussed ones perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940's. PFOA and PFOS are two of the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals and due to their chemical structure, are very persistent in the environment and in the human body- meaning they take a long time to break down and can accumulate over time. There is evidence that excessive exposure to PFAS can lead to human health effects.
PFAS can be found in:
► Workplace, including production facilities or industries (e.g., chrome plating, electronics manufacturing or oil recovery) that use PFAS.
► Drinking water, typically localized and associated with a specific facility (e.g., manufacturer, landfill, wastewater treatment plant, firefighter training facility).
► Living organisms, including fish, animals and humans, where PFAS can build up and persist over time.
Certain PFAS chemicals have been phased out of manufacturing in the United States. Although PFOA and PFOS are longer manufactured in the United States, they are still produced internationally and can be imported in consumer goods such as carpet, leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging, coatings, rubber, and plastics.
(Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency)
There are a variety of ways that people can be exposed to these chemicals and at different levels of exposure. For example, people can be exposed to low levels of PFAS through food, which can become contaminated through: contaminated soil and water used to grow the food, food packaging containing PFAS, and equipment that used PFAS during food processing.
People can also be exposed to PFAS chemicals if they are released during normal use, biodegradation, or disposal of consumer products that contain PFAS.
Drinking water can be a source of exposure in communities where these chemicals have contaminated water supplies. Such contamination is typically localized and associated with a specific facility, for example, an industrial facility where PFAS were produced or used to manufacture other products, or an oil refinery, airfield or other location at which PFAS were used for firefighting (Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency).
There are no state or federal regulatory levels for wastewater or recycled water with respect to PFAS. In some wastewater treatment plants, the current running annual average detected are between the current Notification Levels and Response Levels set by the State Water Resource Control Board's Division of Drinking Water (DDW). Concentrations have stabilized due to the phasing out of PFOA and PFOS.
The WRD Board of Directors has established the PFAS Remediation Program, which provides over $60 million in grant funding to groundwater purveyors in the Central Basin and West Coast Basin to design and construct treatment systems that will remove PFAS from impacted drinking water wells. In addition, WRD continues to monitor groundwater quality in distinct aquifers using a network of over 300 nested wells as we have done for over 50 years. WRD also continues to work with our State and Federal partners to secure funding to provide treatment for contaminated drinking water sources, especially for low-income or disadvantaged communities, where well closures can significantly increase the cost of tap water.
The State Water Resource Control Board, Division of Drinking Water (DDW) has established Notification Levels of 6.5 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOS, 5.1 ppt for PFOA, and 500 ppt for PFBS in drinking water. Notification Levels are nonregulatory, health-based advisory levels that serve as precautionary measures that may lead to the development of Maximum Contaminant Levels, which are legal threshold limits or standards that cannot be exceeded in drinking water. If a water purveyor detects a chemical above the Notification Level, they must inform their customers and consumers about the presence of the chemical, and about health concerns associated with exposure to it. The DDW also has established Response Levels of 10 ppt for PFOA, 40 ppt for PFOS, and 5,000 ppt for PFBS. Starting in January 2020, water purveyors that serve drinking water with PFAS detections above Response Levels must remove the water source from service, treat the water delivered, or provide public notification. The DDW is in the process of developing Maximum Contaminant Levels for some of the PFAS compounds, including PFOA and PFOS.
PFAS can be treated by various methods with the most common ones being reverse osmosis (RO), ion exchange (IX), and granular activated carbon (GAC). These technologies have been fully studied and are considered "best available technologies" (or BATs) approved by the State Water Resource Control Board's Division of Drinking Water (DDW). WRD and others are currently treating recycled water using fully advanced treatment technologies (including RO) at the three seawater injection barriers along the coast and inland areas located in the Montebello Forebay, including at the Albert Robles Center for Water Recycling and Environmental Learning. Water treated using these technologies will be non-detect for PFOA/PFOS.
Since 2019, water purveyors, and others, have been sampling and collecting PFAS data in the Central Basin and West Coast Basin in response to state-wide requirements issued by the State Water Resource Control Board, Division of Drinking Water (DDW) and the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB). PFAS, in particular PFOA and PFOS, have been detected above Response Levels in some active production wells in the Central Basin, specifically within the Montebello Forebay . Also in 2019 and 2020, WRD analyzed samples collected from our extensive network of nested groundwater monitoring wells for PFAS, with results published in our Regional Groundwater Monitoring Reports (specifically for Water Years 2019-2019 and 2019-2020), which can be downloaded from the WRD website at www.wrd.org/regional-groundwater-monitoring-report.
Yes. WRD has filed a lawsuit against 3M Company, E.I. DuPont de Nemours, Inc. and other manufacturers of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) for their involvement in the manufacture and sale of per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that have contaminated groundwater supplies within WRD’s service area.
WRD is represented by a consortium of firms with environmental contamination experience, including SL Environmental Law Group; Taft Stettinius & Hollister, LLP; Kelley Drye & Warren, LLP; Kennedy & Madonna, LLP; Douglas & London, PC; Levin Papantonio Thomas Mitchell Rafferty Proctor, Buchanan O’Brien Barr, Mougey, PA.