Addressing PFAS in Morgan Hill
PFOA and PFOS are fluorinated organic chemicals that are part of a larger group of chemicals referred to as per-and poly-fluoalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS have been extensively produced in the United States since the 1940s. PFAS has been present in many common household items. These man-made substances have been synthesized for water and lipid resistance. Between 2000 and 2002, PFOS was voluntarily phased out of production in the U.S. by its primary manufacturer.
PFAS has been found in food and water sources at various levels throughout the Country. While the science behind this emerging national issue is still being studied, the City of Morgan Hill has begun taking early steps to share with the community testing data and the potential risks of PFAS in the City. The information on this website is being shared with the community to help ensure transparency and communicate any planning work developed by the City of Morgan Hill.
What are PFAS?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of human-made chemicals that do not occur naturally in the environment. They have been used since the 1940’s in making commercial products such as carpets, clothing, food packaging, and cookware due to their waterproof, stain-resistant, and nonstick properties. They have also been used in fire-retarding foam and various industrial processes.
Perfluorooctane-sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are currently the most well-known and studied types of PFAS. PFOS and PFOA were mostly phased out of production between 2000 and 2006, but traces of both are still found in the blood of nearly all people tested in recent national monitoring surveys.
How are People Exposed to PFAS?
PFAS can be introduced into the body through eating or drinking food or liquid (including water) where PFAS is present and inhaling or touching products with packaging treated with them such as carpeting or clothing. The most common way of being exposed to PFAS is by eating food with PFAS present.
How Does PFAS Get Into Drinking Water?
PFAS can be introduced to drinking water supplies when products containing them are used or spilled on the ground and PFAS migrates into groundwater. Once in groundwater the substances can travel large distances and can be found in drinking water wells. PFAS can similarly be introduced to drinking water by entering lakes and rivers that are connected to drinking water supplies. The major sources of PFAS contamination in drinking water are believed to be from fire training/fire response sites, industrial sites, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants/biosolid facilities.
PFAS Health Eﬀects
Studies have shown that exposure to certain levels of PFAS may lead to:
- Cancer Effects. Increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers.
- Weight Effects. Increased cholesterol levels and/or risk of obesity.
- Immune Effects. Reduced ability of the body’s immune system to fight infections.
- Developmental Effects. Low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations, or behavioral changes.
- Reproductive Effects. Decreased fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women.
Actions Taken to Protect Your Drinking Water
- Use state-certified laboratories using EPA-developed testing methods in drinking water to test our water wells for PFAS
- Compare results to California state standards for safe levels of PFAS in drinking water or to EPA’s Health Advisory Levels (HALs) for PFAS.
- Research different technologies for efficient treatment in the event of an eventual contamination
- Work with other agencies to learn and improve our process.
- Keep our residents informed of new regulations and provide informative links.
Most Prominent Systems Used to Reduce PFAS Levels in Drinking Water
- Granular activated carbon treatment system
- Reverse osmosis treatment system
How is PFAS in Drinking Water Regulated?
Over the past several years, the science on PFAS and its impacts to the environment and public health have prompted regulatory consideration. In California, there are both state and federal regulations water suppliers must abide by.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued health advisories for certain PFAS. These health advisories can be found at the following link: EPA Health Advisories. Additionally, the EPA is in the process of establishing federally enforceable drinking water standards for PFAS nationwide. The EPA's proposed PFAS regulations are available to the public.
The California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) requires testing on a quarterly basis to identify the extent of contamination of drinking water sources in the state.
The California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has also issued drinking water advisory levels for certain PFAS as noted in the table below and is pursuing advisory levels for additional PFAS. Additionally, the SWRCB is in the process of establishing enforceable drinking water standards for PFAS.
Morgan Hill Response
The City of Morgan Hill began testing for PFAS in 2023. PFAS has been found at various levels at some of the City’s Water Wells. The levels of occurrence are all below the required State and Federal response levels. Therefore, the City’s current actions will be to continue to monitor the City’s levels and provide information on PFAS through our next Annual Consumer Confidence Report.