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Off-line Suburban Rosemont District/Cal American Water well found with elevated PFAA levels
An off-line well at California American Water’s Suburban Rosemont District has been found with elevated levels of perfluorinated alkyl acids (PFAAs). The well in question is one of 29 wells serving customers in the Suburban Rosemont District and is the only well operated by California American Water known to have detected, elevated PFAA levels.
“The health and safety of our customers we serve is our top priority because they are our friends, neighbors and families. We didn’t cause this contamination but we are going to fix it,” said Audie Foster, California American’s director of operations for Northern California. “Our commitment is to rapidly work with our regulators to gain the proper permits for the necessary treatment. Lower wintertime usage and drought reductions have allowed this well to be kept in standby to this point; we are racing to have treatment in place before it is needed.”
PFAAs are a class of chemicals widely used for many decades in aircraft firefighting foams, non-stick cookware and water-resistant clothing. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regards them being harmful to the environment. Chronic exposure to the chemical – also known of as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) — can increase health risks. Data from animal studies indicate that PFAA/PFCs may have toxic effects on the immune, liver, and endocrine systems; pregnant women and nursing babies are thought to be the most susceptible.
On May 19, 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) issued a new health advisory level for PFAAs which set the new health level of 70 parts per trillion. The most current laboratory results from the affected Suburban Rosemont District well indicate PFAAs at 2.5 times that level. California American Water has indicated that they will be working with state regulators to seek immediate permitting of new treatment technology.
Several commonly used water treatment technologies are effective in treating for PFAAs. California American Water is working with both in-house experts and consultants to determine the best treatment technology and have it installed at the wellhead as soon as permitting allows.
The USEPA uses study data from the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 3 (UCMR3) to determine the prevalence of compounds in drinking water sources for substances that do not have health-based standards set under the Safe Drinking Water Act. UCMR3 data is combined with information on potential health effects to select substances for future regulation in drinking water. The testing for PFAAs was done as part of UMCR3 testing.
“In this case, the regulations in the Safe Drinking Water Act are working to protect public health. The USEPA is changing standards as new science and technology is becoming available and utilities like California American Water are going to get treatment on our well as quickly as possible,” said Foster. “We have a national team of water quality scientists and experienced treatment operators supporting our efforts to address this challenge.”
More than 60 wells were tested in several California American Water systems around Sacramento. Only the one well in question — near the former Mather Air Force Base — has been impacted. However, federally-mandated testing revealed six water systems in California with levels of PFAA above the new health advisory level. None of the other systems are owned or operated by California American Water.
Customers who are concerned may consult their physician.