PFAS and Drinking Water FAQs

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Recent news reports on the toxic contaminants known as PFAS has raised concerns about the presence of these chemicals in drinking water. 

What are PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. PFAS were widely used in manufacturing, fire suppression, and on military bases since the 1940s. Although manufacturing the chemicals is now banned in the United States, decades of use have left residual contamination in many water supplies throughout the nation. The most common PFAS chemicals found in drinking water are Pefluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluoroctane Sulfonate (PFOS). Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.

Has PFAS affected the Newport Beach water supply?

Despite playing no role in releasing PFAS into the environment, PFAS has been detected in the Orange County Groundwater Basin, including one of the City of Newport Beach’s four groundwater wells. Testing conducted on October 5, 2020, of all four City wells, detected PFOS at a level of 3 Parts Per Trillion (PPT) in that one well. The City’s remaining three wells were considered Non-Detect (ND) during this testing period.

The California Division of Drinking Water (DDW) has set a Notification Level for PFOS at 6.5 PPT, and a Response Level of 40 PPT. (One PPT is equivalent to four grains of sugar dissolved in an Olympic-size swimming pool containing 660,000 gallons of water.) Exceedance of the Notification Level would require the City to notify its customers of the presence of the chemical in the drinking water, and an exceedance of the Response Level would require the City to eliminate the source of the water containing the chemical.

Because of the presence of the chemical in the City’s one well, the DDW has instituted a monitoring order for all four of the City’s groundwater wells. This monitoring order requires the City’s groundwater wells to be tested on a quarterly basis for PFAS chemicals. The table below details PFOS and PFOA testing results on the City’s four groundwater wells. Testing results will be updated on a quarterly basis as they are provided to the City.  

QUARTERLY TESTING FOR OCTOBER 5, 2020

CITY'S WELLS

     

PFOS

     

 PFOA

         RESULT  NL  RL        RESULT  NL  RL
DOLS        ND  No  No         ND  No  No
DOLD        ND  No No        ND  No  No
TAMS        3 PPT  No No        ND  No  No
TAMD        ND  No No        ND  No  No

What about the rest of Orange County?

Recent news articles have reported on PFAS groundwater contamination across the country especially near military bases or heavy industrial uses. Testing has found PFAS in some water wells in North and Central Orange County and they have been shut down according to the latest state standards. Generally, where PFAS has been detected in Orange County, detection levels have been very low. 

What steps are being taken to protect the public?

Some wells within the Orange County groundwater basin have been shut down for exceeding Response Levels. The cities and agencies that rely on those wells must then use more imported water from the Metropolitan Water District. OCWD is working to develop potential treatment methods for the removal of PFAS. In Newport Beach, the OCWD and City will continue to test and monitor the water supply for the presence of PFAS chemicals on a quarterly basis.

Legend for Terms Used Above - 

PFAS – Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances

PFOA - Pefluorooctanoic Acid

PFOS - Perfluoroctane Sulfonate

PPT – Parts Per Trillion

DDW – CA Division of Drinking Water

NL – Notification Level set by the DDW

RL – Response Level set by the DDW

OCWD – Orange County Water District

Where can I go for more information?

City of Newport Beach Utilities Department: 949-644-3011

Orange County Water District 

OCWD Video on PFAs

OCWD PFA Fact Sheet

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

State Water Resources Control Board

U.S. Food and Drug Administration