Related — Sims pitches reverse osmosis for drinking water, but board delays vote

“The first steps in borrowing $25 million for a reverse osmosis filtration system to remove industrial toxins from drinking water will be on the agenda this morning at a board meeting of the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority.

General Manager Don Sims on Wednesday said the system is needed to remove perfluorinated compounds from drinking water. A temporary system now in place uses granulated activated carbon to filter out the chemicals, but Sims said a reverse osmosis system is the most cost-effective long-term solution…

Sims said the process of applying to the state for the $25 million loan takes about a year, and the authority is just getting started. Building the plant would take another two years. He said his hope is that 3M Co., which along with Daikin America Inc. is a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the authority, will pay for the reverse osmosis system.

‘I’m not going to put water out there that’s not safe for my people,’ Sims said. ‘We’re trying to keep our costs as low as we can just to get by until 3M steps up and does the right thing. The $25 million would just be a start.’

Most research on perfluorinated compounds focuses on perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Both were used in Decatur industries before being phased out, and the authority claims the chemicals continue to enter the river through contaminated water, landfills, dumps and other sources. The authority’s water intake is about 16 miles downstream of 3M, which used both chemicals, and Daikin, which used PFOA…

‘3M has made, and continues to make, substantial efforts to address PFOA and PFOS issues in the Decatur area,’ 3M spokeswoman Donna Fleming Runyon said in an email Wednesday. ‘… The vast body of scientific evidence does not show that PFOS or PFOA cause adverse health effects in humans at current exposure levels, or even at the historically higher trace levels found in blood.’

Sims said $25 million is the minimum needed to build a system that would filter enough water for current customer demand — about 10 million gallons per day — but the actual cost is likely to be higher. To meet the water plant’s full capacity of 16 million gallons per day, Sims said the authority would need a reverse osmosis system that likely would cost more than $50 million to build, plus an additional $1 million a year to operate.

‘Our people can’t stand to foot the bill for that,’ Sims said. ‘Unless 3M steps up and does the right thing, we can’t afford to build what they’ve destroyed.’ …

The authority last month agreed to a $4 million settlement with Daikin, which it plans to use to pay off debt incurred in building the carbon system.

Sims declined to say whether the $25 million of debt would require a rate increase, explaining there were too many variables. One of those variables is 3M. Another is his slight hope that state or federal grant money can be secured to help build the system.”

Read the full article by Eric Fleischauer