The Pleasanton City Council made headway on plans to repair a contaminated groundwater well and meet -- if not exceed -- future water quality standards earlier this month.
In a unanimous vote Sept. 1, the council approved a $437,374 contract with Walnut Creek-based Carollo Engineers to prepare a basis of design report for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) treatment and rehabilitating the city's groundwater wells 5, 6 and 8.
The report will decide the specifics of the $40 million treatment project, including the location and evaluating what treatment is best -- granulated activated carbon, ion exchange or a combination of the two -- and whether the treatment should be inside or outside.
City utilities planning manager Todd Yamello gave an update that evening on the city's current status and long-term plans to treat PFAS, which are a group of manmade chemicals found in nonstick cookware, paint and other common household solutions or items.
Concerns remain about past and current PFAS compounds contaminating water sources, especially groundwater wells near sites where the chemicals could be found more extensively, such as landfills, industrial properties, fire response sites and wastewater treatment plants.
Last year, the council signed off on a response plan with near- and long-term strategies to address levels of certain human-made chemicals found in the local groundwater supply.
The move came after new state testing requirements led the city and Zone 7 Water Agency officials to discover their wells contain levels of synthetic compounds in the PFAS family. The city-operated Well 8 has not operated due to contamination since testing started last summer -- and this year, the city's Well 5 was non operational because of a pump motor failure.
"A lot of the systems are starting to reach the end of their useful life," Yamello said at the meeting, and added the city will need to incorporate new water treatment vessels -- like ion exchange or granular-activated carbon (GAC) vessels -- at the well sites. The site for Well 8 was favored for its potential room to expand by staff, who also said the location for Wells 5 and 6 has access challenges and little room for expansion.
For Pleasanton, 25% of the public water supply comes from the three city-owned and -operated groundwater wells and the rest is supplied by Zone 7, whose primary source is water delivered through the State Water Project, supplemented by local wells. Due to the well problems, Pleasanton has depended on Zone 7 to deliver more water during summer.
"Probably the bigger issue for us is meeting peak summer demands," Yamello said, which has historically required the city running at least two wells to meet demand in addition to what they receive from Zone 7. He added "if PFAS hits and takes away our ability to pump wells, there needs to be a solution."
One solution staff preferred is self-implementing treatment at the wells, which Yamello said "puts the schedule in our control and with (state) regulations coming fast, this is probably the best way to control our ability to meet them."
Another option is exploring regional solutions to implement treatment at another site or buy more water from Zone 7.
Olivia Sanwong, president of the Zone 7 Board of Directors, phoned in during public comment of the Sept. 1 council meeting to "drive home the point" that the board hasn't made any final decisions on proceeding with a water treatment project and that she was open to an inter-agency collaboration.
"There are seven of us, and so it's possible you may have had a conversation with your favorite member of the board and they could have said one thing, and then when you talk to another member of the board, they may say another," Sanwong said. "Please keep that in mind, that we haven't considered what we're going to do in regards to this topic and addressing the issue."
On the matter of local control, Sanwong said, "I live here in Pleasanton, I'm on our Zone 7 Board. I want you to think of Zone 7, we are also your local water agency. It's the same groundwater basin that we're drawing water from…so please, when you think local control, you do consider Zone 7 as part of your local option, and for me, personally, I'm one of seven that I really do want us to explore the opportunity for a partnership."
During council discussion, Vice Mayor Kathy Narum spoke to the city's "need to work with Zone 7 but support local control as it relates to the wells," while Councilwoman Karla Brown said the city needs to "look to the state and federal government" for financial assistance because "it is going to be expensive. We need to reach out for grants and low-interest loans."
Yamello also gave an overview of a work plan to repair the wells; including outlined stages for simultaneously designing and constructing the project through 2023. Staff recommended moving forward with planning and designing for self-implemented PFAS treatment for all three wells.