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News / Health / Clark County Health

Camas OK’s $1.6M contract to address PFAS in city’s water supply

Consultants will tackle treatment plan for Well 13

By Kelly Moyer, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: April 13, 2024, 6:09am

CAMAS — Camas officials approved a $1.6 million contract with an environmental engineering firm to help address PFAS found in the city’s drinking water.

PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of synthetic chemicals widely used in items such as nonstick cookware, cleaners, fabric, floor polishes, paint, carpeting and water-resistant clothing. PFAS break down very slowly in the environment leading to their nickname “forever chemicals.”

On April 1, Camas City Council members unanimously approved a $1.6 million agreement with Carollo Engineers to tackle the short- and long-term aspects of PFAS mitigation.

“Like many Washington communities on the lower Columbia River, the city of Camas is proactively developing a strategy to discuss and address the public health concerns associated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in its drinking water,” according to a report from a consultant.

“They are extremely persistent in the environment,” Public Works Director Steve Wall told city officials in January. “And they’re not easy to get rid of. They don’t degrade … so we’re trying to catch up with something that has been in (our environment) for 70 to 80 years.”

Camas was one of the first Washington communities to test its drinking water system for PFAS. In 2022 and 2023, the city found PFAS levels that exceeded the state’s 15 parts per trillion limit in Well 13 near downtown Camas.

Since then, the city has tested its water on a quarterly basis, Wall said. When Well 13 was offline, the PFAS levels were less than the state’s limits.

But, Wall said, Well 13 is not the only impacted well. The Oak Park Wellfield and East Wellfield wells have also tested positive for PFAS at levels below the state limit, but above the federal limits announced by the Biden administration this week.

City officials are trying to figure out the extent of the PFAS problem, find a treatment solution for wells, develop a long-term mitigation plan and come up with a communications program that will help city staff and officials better explain the issue and possible remedies to the public.

“We want to move quickly … but we also want to make sure we’re making good, long-term decisions,” Wall said.

The consultants will sample and monitor all of the Camas wells to gauge if the city can combine PFAS treatment or would be better off treating each well individually.

Wall said the city will likely need to use Well 13 this summer when water demand increases.

“At some point in 2024 and 2025, we will still need to be using the water Well 13 produces,” Wall said, adding that, if the well’s PFAS levels were greater than the state’s action levels, the city would communicate that to the public.

In order to meet state and national requirements, the city must understand what’s happening in the groundwater feeding Camas’ wells, Wall said. “It changes through time, and we want to understand that and adapt.”

Wall said the money for the contract will come from the city’s water fund.

The consultants’ work has three objectives:

  • Quickly develop a near-term treatment plan at Well 13 to reduce the PFAS levels below the state’s action levels.
  • Develop a long-term mitigation plan for the entire drinking water system and an understanding of the extent of the PFAS contamination.
  • Help the city explain complicated PFAS risks in a clear, understandable manner throughout current and future projects.

The city will host an open house to discuss PFAS issues and will seek funding opportunities to pay for the treatment options Camas officials decide to pursue.

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“We are essentially in a two-year process here,” Wall said. “We will be done with this scope of work in early 2026 — with the design and permitting of Well 13 treatment and the PFAS response plan. Additional testing and monitoring will take some time to work through.”