As communities across the globe begin assessing Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) impacts to municipal and private drinking water, many are confronted with the financial challenge of where to spend limited resources to achieve the greatest impact. WSP is unlocking a resilient strategy to help a regional area, that includes 14 communities and more than 170,000 residents, to evaluate feasible alternatives for sustainable drinking water as part of an $850 million settlement in the first-ever Natural Resource Damage Claim for PFAS in the United States.
After PFAS were first detected in regional drinking water supplies, the contamination was traced to landfills used from the 1950s through the early 1970s for the disposal of PFAS manufacturing waste. To begin a path forward, our team is advising state agencies and the communities in the regional area to develop a conceptual drinking water supply plan to provide clean, sustainable drinking water that addresses each community’s needs today and in the future.
The plan considers treatment options for both public water systems and private wells to address the approximately 150 square mile PFAS contamination area. Both hydraulic and hydrogeologic modeling of existing drinking water distribution systems, combined with groundwater modeling of source water quality and quantity were considered to develop feasible alternatives.
Engaging with more than 100 stakeholders for feedback and input over a year-and-a-half, we researched and developed four categories of drinking water scenarios. Around 20 scenarios were assessed within each category including costs, hydraulic feasibility, groundwater availability and quality and site-specific requirements. The assessment scenarios incorporated individual community solutions to regional and sub-regional solutions to provide clean drinking water taking into consideration both traditional and new innovative PFAS treatment techniques.
With the region’s population expected to increase to more than 220,000 people by 2040, the plans will ensure resilient systems are designed to meet future drinking water needs. Engaged citizens, local government officials, along with state and county employees are involved in monthly work group sessions and community listening sessions are hosted on a periodic basis. All engagement efforts provide a constant feedback loop to ensure early adoption and regular collaboration further refining each assessed scenario to develop optimal treatment solutions for each affected area.
As the scale and complexity of a PFAS‐impacted water supply continues to challenge similar communities across the US, this project establishes a framework for the evaluation and delivery of an affordable solution to ensure people have access to safe drinking water not just in the US, but around the globe. WSP continues to explore new ways to help these communities take the critical first step to determine where to spend limited funds for the greatest impact. By spearheading bespoke plans at a regional level that include a detailed understanding of the unique hydrogeology and infrastructure we are able to begin to extract one of the most challenging contaminants to remove from the environment.