ALAMEDA COUNTY — Zone 7 directors have approved spending $2 million to design a facility to treat potential human health threats in Cope Lake’s water should chemicals accumulate above legally acceptable levels.

Those chemicals are called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs and PFOAs), which are found in consumer products, such as cookware, food packaging and stain repellents. They make their way into drinking water sources. The National Cancer Institute continues to study their health impacts.

In an effort to protect the water quality of Cope Lake’s three nearby wells, directors during a May 5 meeting voted unanimously in favor of committing to spend $2 million now for designing the facility.

Going ahead with the plan to spend $2 million on the purification plant would also qualify Zone 7 for grant money and loans, once the design hits the 50% to 60% completion level.

The only risk in proceeding with the $2 million design would be if future standards for toxicity of PFOAs and PFAs become even stricter, making the plant inadequate to meet them.

However, there would be several checkpoints along the timeline for designing the facility to see how design of the $2 million plan is coming along. That could give Zone 7 reason to pull back on financing the design, and save money, said director Dennis Gambs.

Wrong Path

Expensive in Past

Board Vice President Angela Ramirez Holmes said she recognized the risk of taking the wrong path and investing the $2 million on a facility that could become obsolete. She reminded the board that Zone 7 built a facility in Patterson Pass, paid for it, and no longer uses it. Ramirez Holmes later explained to a reporter that she was referring to an old Ultra Filtration (UF) Plant building constructed in about 2002 to house a UF membrane system, which is no longer in use at the Patterson Pass Water Treatment Plant. Ultra Filtration filters out solids, but Reverse Osmosis, which Tri-Valley water agencies are eyeing, filters out most of the chemical residues in water.

But Ramirez Holmes voted for the $2 million design phase, because it would put Zone 7 in a position to possibly obtain grants to assist with the costs of solving problems meeting the standards.

The vote was 5-0, with Board President Olivia Sanwong and Director Sandy Figuers absent.

How Cleanup Works

Zone 7 would treat the PFAs and PFOAs by finding a suitable medium between two types on the market to use as a cleaner. Think of the medium as a broom. Just as brooms get dirty, so do cleanup mediums. Scrubbing with them would transfer the PFOA and PFA toxicity to the mediums. Then the mediums would have to be disposed of as toxic waste at an appropriate facility, at a cost to be paid by Zone 7.

Pleasanton faces the same problem in dealing with PFAs and PFOAs in its own water, which is pumped independently of Zone 7 water. Jarnail Chahal, Zone 7 engineering manager, told The Independent that Zone 7 staff meets with Pleasanton staff quarterly to share information about both agencies’ significant projects to help with coordination.

“Since both agencies are working on planning for PFAS and PFOAs treatment at their wells, the treatment-related discussion helps with sharing information and coordination related to that effort,” he said.


Steve Kalthoff

The board also heard a report from Director Sarah Palmer about the death of former Trustee Steve Kalthoff, who served on the board from 1994 to 2010. He had some small vineyard holdings between Pleasanton and Livermore for a few years and liked to speak up about matters affecting businesses.

Palmer, who was elected to the board in 2006, attended a funeral for Kalthoff on April 23 at St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church in Pleasanton. Palmer said that while on the board, “Steve did not speak much, but when he did, everything was incredibly well thought out.”

“I wanted to recognize Steve’s passing, and what a fine board member he was for many years,” she added

The board adjourned in Kalthoff’s honor.