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  • Supervisors request Tucson lower PFAS levels in water discharged into Santa Cruz

    Aug 12, 2021 | Read More News
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    At its August 10 meeting, the Pima County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a recommendation that Tucson Water treat new water discharges into the Santa Cruz River for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 
    Santa Cruz River
    PFAS is a class of more than 3,000 man-made chemicals widely used in common household consumer products including non-stick pans, stain protection coating on textiles, and the coating on food packages.

    Tucson Water recently announced plans to discharge treated water from the Tucson Airport Remediation Project (TARP) into the Santa Cruz River near Irvington Road after higher levels of PFAS than previously thought were detected in groundwater.

    In June, the city closed the TARP facility, which had been built to treat contaminated groundwater emanating from the airport area.

    Because the health risks PFAS chemicals pose, supervisors strongly recommended that the levels be lowered as much as possible prior to releasing water into the river. Tucson Water plans to release water treated to an operating level of less than 18 parts per trillion for PFAS. 

    Supervisors and County officials want guarantees water from TARP will be treated to remove as much of the PFAS compounds as possible to prevent the further spread of the chemicals. PFAS could be further disbursed through the region as water released into the Santa Cruz River settles into the groundwater system.

    “PFAS compounds persist in the environment and the risks of human exposure of are not fully understood.  For this reason, it is critical that we do everything possible to minimize the likelihood that these compounds enter the drinking water supply,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, Deputy County Administrator and Chief Medical Officer. “There are some studies that have linked PFAS exposure with potentially increased risks for certain cancers, impaired kidney, liver and thyroid function, immune system disorders, and even developmental issues.”

    The city received $2 million from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to construct a pipeline to discharge 3.5 million gallons of water per day into the Santa Cruz River near Irvington Road. Construction of the project has begun and discharge of treated water into the Santa Cruz is expected to begin in early October.