New PFAS water treatment coming to Tucson thanks to EPA funding

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 5:47 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Water is a precious resource in the desert, and officials from the local to federal level are working to protect it.

Tucson Water uses $30 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act signed two years ago to keep drinking water clean.

“We’ve been working on the contaminated water since 1981 when my dad first discovered the sicknesses happening in our neighbors,” Tucson International Airport Area Superfund Site Chairwoman Yolanda Herrera said. “We had a well at the end of the street that was shut down.”

While Tucson’s fight against contaminated water is nothing new, the contaminants are posing a big threat. The biggest problem now is PFAS – chemical compounds found in non-stick cookware, rainproof clothing and more making it’s way to the faucet.

“As the science is changing we’re understanding that the cost of some of these conveniences is the health and well-being of the communities that we serve,” EPA Assistant Adminisrator for Water Radhika Fox said.

“About 7 or 8 years ago we realized that PFAs contamination was pervasive through many areas of the Tucson community,” Tucson Water Director John Kmiec said. “We quickly tested all of our drinking water supply wells and identified over 28 of them that had to be turned off because they had varying levels of PFAs existing in them.”

Now, with federal funding, Tucson Water is working to revive three of those supply wells with an advanced water treatment plant on Tucson’s northside.

“Groundwater is designated throughout the state for drinking water purposes and that’s why the DEQ is so focused on protecting our aquifers from contamination and addressing cleanups when we find it,” Arizona Department of Environmental Quality CEO Karen Peters said.

The building of the plant is projected to provide 3.7 million more gallons of drinking water per day, and as the water supply in the Colorado River dwindles, the use of supply wells is more crucial than ever for years to come.

“Being a fifth generation… I am concerned about my seventh-generation, my grandchildren,” Herrera said. “We want to make sure that they have safe, secure water for their children and their children’s children.”

In just a few months according to Biden’s administration, they will be finalizing the first national drinking water standard for PFAS.

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