Tucson Water Treatment Plant Completes Update To Address Newfound PFAS Contamination

By Claire Caulfield
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2019 - 2:53pm
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2019 - 3:38pm

A water treatment plant completed a costly upgrade Thursday to address newfound contamination from a nearby Superfund site.

The upgrade cost $700,000 and it took about nine weeks to replace 56 tons of granular activated carbon.  Fernando Molina, a public relations officer for Tucson Water, said now the amount of perfluorinated compounds — a group of carcinogenic chemicals also known as PFAS or PFCs — is below detection levels.

Since the PFAS were discovered, the plant has been operating to insure the level of PFAS were below 18 parts per trillion. The EPA's limit is 70 parts per trillion.

Molina said water from the plant has been safe to drink since the plant had already been using a process that removed PFAS. The upgrade will now allow the treatment plant to operate more efficiently and address PFAS contamination in the long term.

“The City of Tucson has entered into a lawsuit seeking compensation for our lost production capacity and request[ing] compensation for cleanup because this is not the only site that we’re finding PFAS, we’re finding it in wells throughout the city,” Molina said.

The contamination is linked to the 10-square-mile Tucson International Airport Superfund site. Superfund sites are considered some of the most contaminated places in the country and this area made the list in 1983. Ground water underneath residential areas of Tucson and South Tucson, an Air Force facility, the Tucson International Airport and a portion of Tohono O'Odham tribal land has dangerously high levels of PFAS, as well as TCE and 1,4 dioxane.

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