First Well in District to Receive Treatment for PFAS

The final plans and specifications for the city of Fullerton Kimberly Well 1A (KIM1A) PFAS treatment plant—the first in the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) to treat for harmful perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) chemicals —are nearing completion.

PFOA and PFOS are water and grease repellents found in a variety of consumer products and industrial materials that were manufactured beginning in the 1940s in the United States. These “forever chemicals” are now discovered in not only water supplies, but in the soils and air near manufacturing and disposal locations. They are part of a larger group of chemicals referred to as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Despite playing no role in releasing them into the environment, cities and water agencies must find ways to remove them from their water supplies.  

OCWD has worked diligently over the past year with its member water retailers and launched the nation’s largest pilot testing project to evaluate and implement effective treatment technologies with the goal to get local groundwater supplies back online as soon as possible.

The District’s design efforts have been accelerated for select water retailer sites with PFOA or PFOS levels above 80% of their state response levels (RL). (The state Division of Drinking Water recommends removing the drinking water source from service at the RL, which varies by contaminant.) These terms and others are defined in the Groundwater Producer-OCWD PFAS agreement which codifies how OCWD will fund the design and construction of treatment.

Current PFAS water quality testing results for KIM1A indicate the facility is eligible for OCWD-funded treatment.

Design of the KIM1A PFAS treatment plant began in April 2020. The plant will be located at the well site in Fullerton.

After a robust analysis of alternatives, Ion Exchange (IX) treatment has been selected as the treatment method. 

The design, prepared by Tetra Tech, utilized the information from the Jacobs PFAS Treatment Testing Support Services, the Carollo PFAS Treatment Systems Planning Study, and the pre-purchase of treatment vessel systems from Evoqua and Aqueous Vets.

OCWD Engineer’s Report that determined the project feasibility, necessity and its benefits, was recently finalized and approved by the District’s board of directors. Next steps include filing of a Categorical Exemption in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) guidelines, finalizing the plans and specifications, inviting construction bids, requesting proposals to procure and install ion exchange resin media, and completing regulatory permitting for the treatment facility. The project is due for completion by May 2021.

The initial capital cost for the KIM1A PFAS treatment plant will be approximately $3,650,000 and will be shared among 19 OCWD water retailers via the replenishment assessment paid to OCWD for pumping groundwater. The District is also seeking to secure grants and other funding sources to help pay for these new expenses.

A second PFAS treatment construction package is planned for the city of Fullerton’s wells 3A, future 7A, 5, 6, and 8 located at their Main Plant in the city of Anaheim

OCWD’s service area depends on groundwater for 77% of its supply. OCWD and its member water retailers provide safe and dependable drinking water that is tested regularly, above and beyond local and federal requirements, and continually meets all state and federal drinking water standards.