PFOS / PFOA 

Anaheim’s water quality is our top concern. As part of our commitment to quality, Anaheim regularly monitors state and federal regulations to ensure we are providing high-quality water to our residents and business customers.

In May 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it has lowered health advisory guidelines for two unregulated contaminants — perfluorooctane sulfonate, known as PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

According to the EPA, these are “organic chemicals that have been used in a variety of commercial and consumer products, such as stain and water repellants for carpets and upholstered furnishings, paper products, fire-fighting foams and non-stick cookware.”

PFOS and PFOA have been detected in water throughout the U.S., including in California, Orange County and Anaheim. The EPA announcement and related materials can be found here.

All of Anaheim’s water was tested for PFOS and PFOA per the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule.  Most of Anaheim’s water did not have any detectable levels of PFOS or PFOA and in all but two of the sources where PFOS or PFOA was detected, it was below the revised health advisories.  Anaheim retested the two wells that had detections above the health advisory and in both cases, results from these subsequent tests were below the health advisories.

We will continue to follow regulatory developments regarding these substances and meet all EPA and California directives to ensure our residents and business customers continue to enjoy the high-quality water Anaheim is known for.

Anaheim’s steps taken:

  • Continued testing of water to determine if contaminants were present.
  • Providing test results in Anaheim Public Utilities’ annual Water Quality Report.
  • Minimizing the use of  sources that had previously exceeded EPA’s health advisories.
  • Working with regulators and groundwater management agencies to determine and address possible sources of contamination.
  • Developing and implementing plans to mitigate PFOS and PFOA levels in Anaheim’s drinking water supplies.

Questions and Answers

What are PFOS and PFOA?

PFOS and PFOA are organic chemicals that have been used in a variety of commercial and consumer products, such as fire-fighting foams, non-stick cookware, stain and water repellants for carpets and upholstered furnishings and paper products. More information is available on EPA’s website.

Why did water agencies test for PFOS and PFOA?

Water agencies tested for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water as part of the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 3, a rule developed by U.S. EPA that evaluates the presence of several currently unregulated contaminants to determine their presence in the environment and help evaluate whether these contaminants need further regulations. 

What are the Health Impacts of PFOS and PFOA?

According to the EPA, “Both compounds are persistent in the environment and are known to have adverse effects in laboratory animals. Recent epidemiology data suggest the possibility for some adverse effects on human health.” Potential pathways include ingestion of food and water, use of commercial products, or inhalation from long-range air transport particulate matter. 

What are EPA Health Advisories?

The EPA provides health advisories as guidance for determining if concentrations of unregulated chemicals in drinking water are safe for public consumption. They provide state, local, and tribal governments with non-regulatory tools to make decisions on a local basis in cases where a chemical is not regulated. Health advisories are not enforceable drinking water standards.

On May 19, 2016 EPA established a lifetime health advisory for the combination of both PFOS and PFOA at 70 parts per trillion. According to the EPA, the new health advisory is protective of the most the sensitive individuals, including infants and pregnant mothers, and provides a margin of protection.

How are drinking water contaminants enforced by the EPA and the State of California? 

The EPA and the state of California have established procedures for developing drinking water standards, also known as Maximum Contaminant Levels, or MCLs. An MCL is the highest level of a contaminant allowed in drinking water and is considered safe for long-term consumption. When a new unregulated contaminant is found, the state and federal agencies determine if it warrants regulation. They may conduct studies on toxicology, occurrence, treatment, environmental fate and transport, and other factors. After a thorough analysis of the facts, an MCL may be proposed and enacted. Once an MCL is established, all community water systems must meet the standard or face violations, fines, and penalties.

What technologies will remove PFOS and PFOA?

Treatment technologies to remove PFOS and PFOA from water include activated carbon filters, nanofiltration, and reverse osmosis.

Have PFOS and PFOA been detected in the region?

PFOS and/or PFOA have been detected in 26 water systems in California, including six in Orange County. Two of Anaheim’s 17 wells had detections above the health advisory, however, subsequent testing found that the contaminant levels had fallen below the health advisories.  Out of an abundance of caution, the use of these two wells has been minimized to the extent practicable.

What is Anaheim doing about PFOS and PFOA?

Anaheim will minimize the use of wells that had once contained PFOS or PFOA above the EPA’s health advisory.  We are also working with other water utilities and the Orange County Water District to better understand impacts in the groundwater basin and possible treatment technologies. We will stay abreast of regulatory developments to ensure ongoing compliance with all drinking water standards and requirements.

Questions can be addressed to waterquality@anaheim.net, or 714-765-4556. 

Updated 7/12/16