How Veolia Water in Wilmington is working to remove PFAS from drinking water | Delaware First Media (delawarepublic.org)

Delaware Public Media’s Rachel Sawicki reports on Veolia Water’s work to remove PFAS from drinking water

The Environmental Protection Agency recently updated its maximum PFAS contaminant levels, meaning water utilities must upgrade their efforts to filter out the so-called ‘forever chemicals.’

Delaware Public Media’s Rachel Sawicki recently visited Veolia Water in Wilmington to learn more about its ongoing construction of filters that remove PFAS from drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Agencies’ recently updated maximum PFAS contaminant levels mean water utilities need to upgrade their efforts to filter out the so-called “forever chemicals.”

The new EPA rules give water companies five years to test and upgrade their systems to filter out two types of PFAS – PFOS and PFOA – and meet the new contaminant standard of four parts per trillion.

Delaware was already in the process of implementing state maximum contaminant levels, at a combined level of 17 parts per trillion, so some companies in the First State are already working to achieve undetectable levels in drinking water.

Veolia broke ground on its new PFAS treatment project in November 2023 and expects the system to be finished by the second quarter of 2025.

Vice President and General Manager of Mid-Atlantic Operations Larry Finnicum explains the new building at its Wilmington site will be 80 feet wide by 200 feet long, filled with 21 pairs of carbon vessels filtering PFAS out of the water.

“And when we actually built this project in 2020, we actually anticipated additional regulations coming down.”

He says Veolia started to prepare for the new EPA regulations years ago during another “High Service Building and Clear Well” project, which built a pair of two million gallon above-ground clearwells and all-new high-service transfer pumps.

“And when we built this project in 2020, we actually anticipated additional regulations coming down,” Finnicum says. “So we already had stubs and piping already put in the ground for whatever was going to come down the pike.”

Veolia’s 30 million gallon rated Stanton Water Treatment Plant pulls surface water from the White Clay and Red Clay creeks, and current treatment includes no PFAS removal.

“Average day for us is probably around 14 or 15 million gallons per day of treated water being sent out into the distribution system,” Finnicum notes.

PFAS chemicals were first developed in the 1930s and their most prevalent use was in pre-1970s in firefighting foams and consumer products. These chemicals have been detected in the drinking water of 16 million Americans.

2021 study by Delaware’s Water Resource Center Director Jerry Kauffman shows PFAS concentrations in White Clay Creek Newark and White Clay Creek Stanton as well as the Christina, and Brandywine Rivers were below the MCL of 17 ppt proposed by Delaware. But Red Clay Creek Staton analysis showed 53 ppt of PFOA, which exceeds the proposed MCL. In 2022, more samples were collected from the Red Clay Creek and the PFAS again exceeded the MCL proposed by Delaware.

Finnicum says Veolia’s water tests in the low to mid-twenty ppt on average. According to Veolia’s latest Consumer Confidence report from 2022, special monitoring for PFOS showed 1.8 ppt and 14 ppt for PFOA.

But the new carbon filters are expected to result in undetectable levels of PFAS.

And Veolia plans to test various filters this summer to find what works best.

Listen to the interview, or read the full story, here

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