US: New Water Quality Standards Trigger Billions in Spending to Address PFAS Contamination

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a long-awaited report on water quality standards. This report outlines maximum levels of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFA) contaminants in drinking water. The Safe Drinking Water Act includes national standards for any new contaminants introduced before 1996. This is a bad warning that should be heeded.

This coincides with the announcement of $1 billion in federal funding by 2024 to remove PFAS from drinking water. Additionally, the bipartisan infrastructure legislation requires a total of $9 billion by 2026 to specifically address PFAS and other water infrastructure funding.

PFAS (harmful pollutants) currently contaminate the drinking water of 70 to 94 million Americans. The uniquely flexible chemical structure of PFAS prevents them from breaking down over time, so they are also called forever chemicals. In other words, pollutants must be removed or reduced because they do not decompose.

A common way people are exposed to PFAS is through contaminated drinking water, although it can come from many places. These substances impair people’s health and have caused thousands of complaints from water systems due to contamination of water supply systems. Nearly 600 cases have been resolved worth billions of rupees.

Discussing PFAS contamination across the United States is a huge task. The American Water Works Association reported in a study that the cost of meeting EPA’s official and proposed standards would exceed $3.8 billion per year.

Many funded water improvement projects have been implemented, and hundreds more are under implementation. follow the example.

City officials plan to build a $200 million suspended ion exchange system at the Tippin Water Treatment Facility to tackle the problem of “forever chemicals” in Tampa’s drinking water. The facility, the first in the US, will be the largest SIX system in North America. 

It will use new technology to reduce PFAS and create safer, cleaner drinking water. Levels of PFAS contaminants in the city’s water supply currently exceed 1.5 times the EPA’s new limit. A state-of-the-art SIX system is currently being built to reduce these contamination levels. Final design and construction will begin in 2025.

The Reno City Council approved an additional investment of seventy million dollars to build a new modern purified water facility. The additional funds will be used to expand the project, which is currently in the design phase, to also include remediation of PFAS chemicals.

The $221 million operation will require the construction of water treatment technology and the first water purification and reuse project in Nevada. Water produced from the treatment system will meet or exceed state and federal standards. A 70-mile-long pipeline will carry the source water to a treatment site. The PFAS will then be removed with granular activated carbon filtration, and the water will be disinfected with ultraviolet light. After purifying the water, it will be recharged into groundwater reserves and kept for future use. Officials estimate the project is in the design phase and could open in 2025.

The city of Hastings, Minnesota will build three new water treatment plants to reduce PFAS contamination. The new plants will provide safe levels of purified water and will cost approximately $68.9 million. Granular activated carbon (GAC) technology will be incorporated into PFAS and nitrate decentralized treatment systems. The project is currently in design and should be finalized soon. The bidding process for construction is scheduled for this summer, and Hastings city leaders are planning to build a similar project each year for the next three years.

The project to install a PFAS treatment system in the city of Vancouver, Washington, where high levels of contaminants can be found, is costing $15.7 million. Levels of PFAS contaminants in the plant’s water consistently exceed new maximum levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Subsequently, city officials have tried to reduce PFAS exposure by drawing water from wells with low PFAS concentrations or mixing water from multiple sources to dilute the contaminants. The new treatment system will be able to treat 3,200 gallons per minute of water from three groundwater wells. One of the goals is to build and test the process to see if it could work in other Vancouver water stations. The preliminary design phase will be completed this month. Construction should begin in late 2024 or early 2025.

The city of Blackstone, Massachusetts, will spend $19.5 million to improve its water treatment plant to reduce emerging PFAS contamination. Construction of the current three-well system began in 1944, and only two of these are still functioning. There are plans to build a new treatment plant and replace all three wells. The city is currently studying filtration technologies. The finalized project includes the installation of a backup power source, the installation of new utilities at the location and surrounding roads, and the installation of a new water storage tank. The design process is still ongoing, and final planning is expected in June this year. The city plans to begin construction in 2025.

Since winning a legal settlement over water contamination with PFAS chemicals in 2018, Woodbury, Minnesota, has been working to improve the quality of its water. A temporary water treatment plant was built in 2020, to be expanded in 2022. Unfortunately, PFAS is affecting nine out of twenty wells in the city, prompting a health advisory.

City leaders are now considering a new water treatment plant that would solve this problem long term. City leaders believe a 32 million-gallon-per-day treatment plant would cost about $19 million.

Currently, the new water treatment plant is in the planning stage, with construction scheduled for 2024.

Such opportunities will last for years because of the health risks associated with PFAFS contamination. Companies interested in the contract should get involved at the local level soon.

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