The Zone 7 Water Agency will hire a consultant to study PFAS and PFOS found in some of the district and figure out how they can eliminate any potential threat they may pose to drinking water.

The board acted unanimously at its Dec.18 meeting, and set a limit of $261,000, plus a 10% contingency in case the cost goes higher than the estimate. The board followed the staff report’s recommendation to select Carollo Engineers, of Walnut Creek, to conduct the study.

The industrial chemicals, Perfluorooctanoic acid and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, have been around since the 1940s. They are commonly used to make waterproof clothing and Teflon. Some studies have said the chemicals may be linked to cancer and birth defects. The chemical industry has acknowledged that PFAS and PFOS are found in many people, but disputes whether they are at unhealthy levels.

PFAS have been found in air and soil. About 20% of their total presence is found in water, said Zone 7 director Sarah Palmer, who has a Ph.D in biochemistry. She has been part of a statewide water agency group studying the issue.

California in July 2018 made it obligatory for a water agency to notify its customers when the chemicals are above set limits, measured in parts per trillion. Zone 7 has sent out emails, contacted media, and published it in a report sent to customers, Palmer said.

Eight of 10 wells at three well locations have exceeded the notification standards, which has led to the need for a study.

The City of Pleasanton also has had to report to its customers, because of the level found in one of its wells. The city took the well offline. It also has authorized Carollo Engineers to do a study.

Zone 7 has been using purer water to reduce the levels of PFAS and PFOS in the wells of concern. The study can determine what it will take to treat the water, instead of merely diluting it. How the problem will be addressed also depends on how the community feels about treatment versus blending, General Manager Valerie Pryor said.

At the Zone 7 meeting, Palmer suggested combining the water agency’s Carollo study with others the firm is conducting in Pleasanton and in Orange County. It might save money for everyone involved, she said.

But Pryor said that the studies will be site-specific, and many of the observations of the problems and potential solutions are not transferrable. Further, getting a report quickly will be important. As more agencies realize they have to deal with the problem, the consultants will have longer lines waiting for them.

Director Michelle Smith McDonald said she was glad to see the agency take an aggressive stance in dealing with the issue as soon as possible.