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“Toxic chemicals in many household items are present in Orange County groundwater sources, potentially exposing residents to pollutants that can cause cancer or reduce immune systems.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, exposure to polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or “Forever Chemicals”, through drinking water can cause increased cholesterol levels, weakened immune systems, decreased vaccine response in children, and increased risk of testicular and kidney cancers.

PFAS contamination is a threat to Orange County drinking water, and it has caused over 60 wells to shut down in the last two years, according to the Orange County Water District.

OC Water District officials say that during well shutdowns, water retailers temporarily increased non-impacted wells and supplemented with more expensive imported surface water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

An analysis by the OC Water District found these shutdowns are estimated to inflict $1 billion over the next 30 years on local water providers, residents, and water retailers, a cost that is expected to increase.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS chemicals are essential ingredients of many household and industrial products such as cosmetics, nonstick cookware, cleaning products, and waterproof clothing, and have been a part of man-made production since the 1940s.

“Forever chemical” pollution has been seen across the state, prompting California water boards to begin setting maximum contaminant standards, reports CalMatters.

The Road to Safe Drinking Water

The California State Water Resources Control Board currently attempts to regulate two of the most threatening PFAS chemicals known as PFOA and PFOS.

Some public water wells still do not treat or take contaminated water sources offline after being notified when they surpass these levels, according to the waterboard’s well database. OC Water District officials say this does not happen in Orange County.

The first step in setting an enforceable threshold for PFAS chemicals in drinking water is to set a Public Health Goal and the final step is setting a Maximum Containment Level.

According to Jeff O’Keefe, chief of the Southern California Section of the State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Drinking Water, said that only a Maximum Contaminant Level can mandate treatment of a source by the government. Maximum Contaminant Levels often take years to be set, O’Keefe said.

‘A notification level is set at a level similar to how we would set an MCL [Maximum Contaminant Level], based on the health effects,” O’Keefe says. “But it doesn’t have to go through a regulation process. It’s a guidance level.’

When there is no regulatory process, local water districts aren’t legally required to treat contaminated water until a regulatory standard is established. 

So, when PFAS levels rise above a notification level, water districts are required to release a public notice that the contamination exists if the source is greater than the Response Level. OC Water District officials say this has not occurred in Orange County.”…