While the problem is of great concern and EPA is pressing for action, Rupar said it’s also important that water utilities proceed with an understanding of their situation and a clear plan of action to make sure that the path taken is appropriate for them.
Although WSP has extensive experience with both GAC and ion exchange treatment for PFAS, “we are advising most clients not to jump to treatment right away,” Rupar said. “There are other things they may be able to do, such as operate their sources differently, drill a new well or connect to another water system.”
He added that WSP has produced blending plans for water suppliers with PFAS. “For example, if a utility has three wells and only one has PFAS, they can lean more heavily on the other two. There’s also the potential to abandon a source with high PFAS levels.”
Interconnecting with adjacent water utilities whose testing shows low PFAS concentration is another option — although the utility must weigh the economic disadvantages of purchasing water on the wholesale market against other strategies.
To evaluate and prepare for treatment down the road, utilities can benefit from a footprint study to identify the physical space that would be required for a PFAS treatment system.
“That way, you’ll avoid putting a new administrative building on what could have been your best site for PFAS treatment,” Rupar said. “You’ll also better understand capital expenses and their impact on your budget.”
WSP will soon release a benchmarking study outlining what water utilities are doing to meet the PFAS MCLs, how much they’re spending, and on what methods and technologies.
“There are often less costly alternatives … drill another well, find another water source, dilute the water,” Rupar said. “If it is best for a client to go the treatment route, WSP has that experience. But we are committed to exhausting all viable options that prioritize public safety without overspending for a solution that could be unnecessary.”
WSP’s Matt Burns and Usha Vedagiri take a closer look the impact of these PFAS rules on industrial and commercial locations in their article, “Three Considerations to Help Airports Prepare for PFAS regulations.”
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