The project will protect public health from PFAS while reducing reliance on imported water for 2.5 million residents in Orange County, California.
The U.S. EPA announced a $131 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to the Orange County Water District (OCWD) to help remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from drinking water sourced from local groundwater.
According to EPA, the project will protect public health from PFAS while reducing reliance on imported water for 2.5 million residents in Orange County.
“At EPA, tackling PFAS pollution and safeguarding public health is a top priority. This investment in water infrastructure will address PFAS in drinking water while revitalizing water supplies that are essential in a drought-prone area,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in the EPA news release. “This innovative project will be good for the local economy and result in a safer water supply for Orange County and improved water quality for residents.”
OCWD’s PFAS Facilities Treatment Project is building water treatment plants within the county, reported EPA.
Dozens of wells that pump water from the Orange County Groundwater Basin were removed from service in 2020 after the state of California lowered the response level advisories for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).
As a result, local water suppliers had to rely on imported water from Northern California and the Colorado River in order to meet the needs of their customers.
With this new project, 35 PFAS treatment systems for 59 impacted wells operated by 11 cities and retail water districts within OCWD’s service area are being designed, permitted, and constructed within two years, according to EPA.
The goal is to improve drinking water quality by removing PFOA and PFOS found in groundwater supplied by the wells.
“OCWD is committed to proactively and swiftly addressing PFAS that have been detected in local groundwater supplies,” said OCWD President Steve Sheldon in the EPA news release. “Our staff have done an outstanding job responding to this critical water quality issue by expediting the design and construction of the PFAS treatment facilities.”
The $131 million WIFIA loan will assist in financing the currently estimated project cost of $267 million. The remaining up-front project costs will be funded by borrower cash, according to EPA.
With the WIFIA loan, this will save OCWD approximately $26 million over alternative financing options.
Project construction and operation are expected to create about 800 jobs and construction is expected to be completed by spring 2023, added EPA.