Addressing PFOA and PFOS
At Anaheim Public Utilities, our goal is to provide high quality water for everyone in Anaheim.
We know this is a priority our customers share.
So we are taking action on PFOA and PFOS, industrial chemicals that agencies across California and the nation are encountering in water sources.
With evolving state guidelines that measure microscopic amounts of PFOA and PFOS in groundwater, we have taken or are taking several Anaheim groundwater wells out of service.
To continue providing the best water possible, we are replacing those sources with water imported from Northern California and the Colorado River — sources free of PFOA and PFOS.
While imported water is more expensive — about twice the cost of groundwater — making this change is the right thing to do.
We have heard from our customers and know that high quality water is what our residents, businesses and visitors want.
Addressing PFOA and PFOS with imported water ensures high quality drinking water and also meets new, stringent state guidelines.
We are taking action to address PFOA and PFOS now while also looking to future.
Anaheim’s groundwater supply is an incredible natural resource. Our longer-term plan is to return to using our wells for much of Anaheim’s water, once we can ensure levels that meet or exceed California’s guidelines.
We are exploring filtering and treatment systems that will allow us remove PFOA and PFOS from groundwater.
We are working with the Orange County Water District on the nation’s largest pilot testing program for removing PFOA and PFAS from water.
We stand ready to invest in solutions for PFOA and PFAS. That will take some time but will help keep long-term costs low for our customers while also providing great drinking water for Anaheim.
About PFOA and PFOS
PFOA and PFOS are industrial chemicals no longer in active use in the United States.
PFOA stands for perfluorooctanoic acid, while PFOS is perfluorooctane sulfonate.
PFOA and PFOS are sometimes collectively referred to as PFAS, short for a larger family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
Dating back to the 1940s, PFOA and PFOS have been commonly used to coat carpets, clothes, furniture, food packaging, cookware and other products.
We’ve all encountered PFOA and PFOS in our daily lives.
They were popular for their resistance to water, stains or stuff sticking, which made them particularly useful in cookware.
They were also used in fire-retardant foams, cleaning products and industrial uses.
In the 2000s, manufacturers began voluntarily phasing out use of PFOA and PFOS under a federal Environmental Protection Agency program.
PFOA and PFOS are no longer produced in the United States.
They still are produced in and imported from other countries but are being phased out, with some exemptions, under a ban put forth in 2019 under the Stockholm Convention, an international treaty covering pollutants.
What’s the issue?
Scientific studies have shown that long-term exposure to PFOA and PFOS at high levels can cause health issues.
In California, the state Division of Drinking Water has what are known as a “notification level” and a “response level” for water agencies encountering PFOA and PFOS.
A notification level requires water agencies to notify government officials when a measure exceeds the notification level.
For PFOS, it is 6.5 parts per trillion.
For PFOA, California’s notification level is 5.1 parts per trillion.
California’s response level requires water agencies to take action for readings above 10 parts per trillion for PFOA and 40 parts per trillon for PFOS.
Parts per million, billion or trillion are ways to measure tiny amounts of something in water or air.
It is a microscopic measurement: 10 to 40 parts per trillion is comparable to a few grains of sugar in an Olympic-size swimming pool.
A state law signed in 2019 and effective as of January 2020 requires water agencies to meet new, stricter guidelines as new tests are done.
PFOA, PFOS in Anaheim
At Anaheim Public Utilities, we taking action now and not waiting for new tests to take wells offline.
We will continue to test wells, and, should levels meet or exceed guidelines, we will bring them back into service.
We have taken offline or are taking offline 14 of 19 groundwater wells as a precaution.
The remaining wells meet or exceed the state’s latest guidelines. They can supply about a quarter of Anaheim’s water needs. In the near term, imported water will make up the difference.
Why we’re seeing PFOA, PFOS
In Orange County, what we are encountering is believed to be remnant traces from consumer products and factories, military bases and other industrial uses all around us in Southern California.
The chemicals can make their way into rivers, such as the Santa Ana River, which replenishes much of Orange County’s groundwater.
Anaheim’s water is thoroughly treated and tested to ensure it meets some of the highest standards in the world.
But only recently has technology advanced to detect tiny traces of PFOA and PFOS.
Treatment methods are also catching up, and we are tracking and exploring the best long-term solution for PFOA and PFOS.
You can read more about water quality, see our PFOA and PFOS notification and testing results to the right.