Norwalk 1TD plans $5M project to clean PFAs from contaminated well field

The First Taxing District facility on Grandview Avenue, in 2019. (File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk’s First Taxing District hopes federal funding will help pay for a $5 million project to remove PFAs – “forever chemicals” known to be harmful to human health – from First Taxing District water supplies.

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first federal limits on the class of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in drinking water. “Once finalized, the standards will force states to begin the arduous and expensive process of cleaning their water supplies” of some PFAs, Grist reports. “…This marks the first time the EPA has proposed enforceable drinking water limits for PFAS, which are commonly known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not break down over time and can remain in the environment for years on end.”

In 2019, the First Taxing District revealed that tests found PFAs in two of its five wells, but when the water was blended the result was lower than the then-current EPA advisory PFA level of  70 parts per trillion. The wells were shut down.

Tuesday’s proposal is for 4 parts per trillion, a significant reduction.

First Taxing District Water Department General Manager Eleanor Militana said the district is committed to providing high-quality drinking water, has paid close attention to policy discussions and scientific research regarding PFAS and been proactive.

“FDWD originally sampled its water sources for PFAS in 2014 under an EPA mandate, when results were below laboratory detection limits,” she wrote. Detection methods improved and in 2019, Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT DPH) asked that all larger water systems in Connecticut test for PFAS. FDWD voluntarily complied.

In June, the Connecticut Department of Public Health updated its drinking water Action Levels for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) to:

  • 10 parts-per-trillion (ppt; ng/L) for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)
  • 16 parts-per trillion (ppt; ng/L) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
  • 12 parts-per-trillion (ppt; ng/L) for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)
  • 49 parts-per-trillion (ppt; ng/L) for perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS)

Militana said FDWD meets those standards “on average.”

“We have been in close communication with local health departments and the state Department of Public Health to provide an overview of the District’s PFAS monitoring and testing,” she said.

EPA’s Tuesday proposal for enforceable levels:

  • 4 parts-per-trillion (ppt; ng/L) for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)
  • 4 parts-per trillion (ppt; ng/L) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) summary of the proposal made Tuesday.

“In order to consistently meet the new proposed levels for PFOA and PFOS, the District will need to implement additional treatment,” Militana wrote. “The District has a shovel-ready project to remove per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from the raw water at the Kellogg-Deering Wellfield incorporating a system using Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) that has demonstrated effectiveness at absorbing regulated PFAS compounds in multiple water systems throughout the region and nationally.”

EPA recently announced that more than $18 million from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be allocated to Connecticut to help address emerging contaminants, such as PFAS, in drinking water

The First Taxing District Water Department submitted its project to the CT DPH Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Program (DWSRF), which is utilizing funds from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to address emerging contaminants, Militana said.

“The District received a letter of project eligibility and is included for consideration in the CT DPH DWSRF SFY 2023 Intended Use Plan,” she wrote. “The District is grateful to the CT Department of Public Health for working with us throughout this process as a project of this magnitude could not move forward without the technical and financial support offered by CT DPH DWSRF.”

She further explained, “Under the umbrella of the City of Norwalk, the District has also submitted a grant application to the Community Investment Fund to lower the capital improvement cost of the project for our rate payers. We recognize that grant needs outweigh available funding, so we are appreciative of the support of Mayor Rilling, Senator Bob Duff, Representative Lucy Dathan, Representative Dominique Johnson, and Representative Kadeem Roberts for this important project.”

The Community Investment Fund 2030 (CIF) is aimed at fostering economic development in historically underserved communities across the state, the State says on its website. “CIF will provide a total of up to $875 million to eligible municipalities as well as not-for-profit organizations and community development corporations that operate within them.”

To be eligible for CIF, “applicants be designated as an Alliance District or Public Investment Community,” Militana explained. “The First Taxing District is a municipality, separate and apart from the City of Norwalk, but we do not carry either of those designations. The City of Norwalk is designated as an Alliance District, so the Community Investment Fund allowed us to apply for the grant funding, with the City’s approval, under their designation. We appreciate Mayor Rilling’s support in providing that approval and allowing us to apply under the City of Norwalk. If the District’s project is approved, the funding will come from the Community Investment Fund. The estimated cost of the PFAS removal project is $5 million.”

Norwalk’s other water company already meets the proposed limits, according to its general manger.

“South Norwalk Electric and Water (SNEW) has been testing for PFA compounds since 2014 and is aware of the EPA’s plans to reduce the acceptable PFA levels in drinking water. The EPA’s proposal would set strict limits of 4 parts per trillion, the lowest level that can be reliably measured, for two common types of PFAS compounds called PFOA and PFOS. It is only within the last three years that testing became available for such low levels, those tests, using SNEW’s source water, have shown levels that comply with these proposed strict new limits,” SNEW Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Alan Huth wrote.

Screenshot of the An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.

PFAs “have water- and grease-resistant properties and are used in a wide variety of products, including nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, food packaging, and firefighting foams. PFAS exposure has been linked with health issues such as kidney and testicular cancer, weakened immunity, endocrine disruption, fertility problems, and decreased birth weight,” Harvard states.

When Norwalk faces drought conditions it sometimes buys water from Aquarion. The company is also seeking Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds, it said in a news release.

“It is important to note that while testing and treatment of PFAS in drinking water is critical, it is not the ultimate resolution to the problem,” said Donald Morrissey, Aquarion President in the release. “The production and use of PFAS must be reduced in order to protect human health and prevent further environmental contamination. We encourage the State of Connecticut to take all necessary steps to recover from PFAS manufacturers the cost of remediation in order to reduce the potentially significant expense that Connecticut residents may face.”

Screenshot of the An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.


3 responses to “Norwalk 1TD plans $5M project to clean PFAs from contaminated well field”

  1. Johnny cardamone

    Follow the science! It is expensive to be healthy.

  2. Susan Guerrero

    The threat those fields pose is well known. And yet we keep building them …..

  3. Bryan Meek

    The Environmental Remediation Industrial Complex is just getting warmed up. Look for ever increasing levels of absurdity in an effort to take more money from the private sector to keep feeding this beast.

    Why was 70 parts per trillion ok forever, but now more than 4 parts per trillion is a problem?

    This reminds me of the WRMS windows project that should have cost $2 million but ended up over $5 million because the PCB levels in the soil were over CTs arbitrarily acceptable limits that were made 10x lower than Obama’s EPA administration had on the books. A grown person could eat 50 pounds of the dirt outside the windows where the contamination was found and you still wouldn’t be able to detect any PCBs. This is how insane these limits are going and we’re paying the price. It’s part of the reason why our other facilities are falling apart because we simply can not afford these over the top regulations.

    Sure no one wants PFAs in their water supply, but when we can’t fix our sewer system and are dumping 100s of millions of raw untreated sewage into the river and sound, you need look no further than stupid regulations like this that are stealing money from projects that we really need.

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