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 PFAS, industrial chemicals that agencies across California and the nation are encountering in water sources.
With evolving state guidelines that measure microscopic amounts of PFAS compounds in groundwater, we have taken several Anaheim groundwater wells out of service.
To continue providing the best water possible, we have replaced those sources with water imported from Northern California and the Colorado River — sources free of PFAS.
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 PFAS with imported water ensures high quality drinking water and also meets new, stringent state guidelines.
We are taking action to address PFAS now while also looking to the future.
Anaheim’s groundwater supply is an incredible natural resource. We are returning to using our wells for much of Anaheim’s water using treatment technologies that ensure PFAS levels meet or exceed California’s guidelines.
We have installed and continue to install treatment systems that allow us to remove PFAS from impacted groundwater. The treatment systems, made up of filters, tanks, control valves and pipes, are being installed at nine sites sitting atop 14 underground wells.
Additional information on our $150 million groundwater treatment program can be found here.
The treatment systems will help keep costs low for our customers while also providing great drinking water for Anaheim.
PFAS are a family of industrial chemical compounds that have been in use in the U.S. since the 1940s. PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
Two of the most notable PFAS compounds that have been detected locally are PFOA and PFOS. These particular industrial chemicals are no longer used in the U.S. PFOA stands for perfluorooctanoic acid, while PFOS is perfluorooctane sulfonate.
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.
However, manufactures have developed many other PFAS compounds over the years as a replacement for PFOA and PFOS.
What’s the issue?
Scientific studies have shown that long-term exposure to PFAS compounds 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 specific PFAS compounds including PFOA, PFOS, PFBS and PFHxS.
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, 40 parts per trillon for PFOS, 5,000 parts per trillion for PFBS and 20 parts per trillion for PFHxS.
Parts per million, billion or trillion are ways to measure tiny amounts of something in water or air.
It is a microscopic measurement: 1 part per trillion is comparable to four 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.
PFAS in Anaheim
At Anaheim Public Utilities, we continue to take a proactive approach to our monitoring and response to local PFAS detections and evolving state and federal regulations.
We continue to regularly test groundwater wells and monitor PFAS levels.
We have taken offline several groundwater wells in response to PFAS levels and are currently constructing treatment systems. When complete, these wells will return to service and provide local groundwater that meets or exceeds local, state and federal standards.
The remaining groundwater 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 PFAS
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 PFAS compounds.
You can read more about water quality, see our PFAS notification and testing results to the right.