Water Quality

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Laguna Beach County Water District staff performs continuous water quality testing to ensure its customers safe drinking water. Water supplies are carefully monitored and meet all state and federal standards for health and safety. Each year, the results of these tests are compiled in a water quality report and distributed to all District customers.

Since 1990, California water utilities have been providing an annual Water Quality Report to their customers. This year's report has been prepared in compliance with regulations called for in 1996 reauthorization of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The reauthorization charged the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) with updating the tap water regulatory program and changed the report's due date to July 1.

USEPA and the California Department of Health Services (CDHS) are the agencies responsible for establishing drinking water quality standards. To ensure that your tap water is safe to drink, USEPA and CDHS prescribe regulations that limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. CDHS regulations also establish limits for contaminants in bottled water that must provide the same protection for public health. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also sets regulations for bottled water.

The District vigilantly safeguards its water supply and, as in years past, the water delivered to your home meets the standards required by the state and federal regulatory agencies. In some cases, your local utility goes beyond what is required to monitor for additional contaminants that have known health risks. For information about your water quality in general, please contact our water quality specialist at (949) 464-3117.

View the 2019 Water Quality Report or last year's 2018 Water Quality Report.

Additional Information About Your Drinking Water

Addressing PFOA/PFOS in Orange County

(Information Courtesy of Orange County Water District)
Since 2017, the District has been receiving about two-thirds of its water supply from groundwater pumped out of the Orange County Groundwater Basin, which is managed by the Orange County Water District (OCWD).  OCWD has been working to identify potential sources of PFAS. To date, OCWD has determined that neither water produced by its Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) project nor imported water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) are a source of PFAS to the groundwater basin.

WHAT ARE PFOA, PFOS, AND PFAS?
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are chemicals that were commonly used to make carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food and other materials that are resistant to water, grease or stains. They were also used for firefighting at airfields and in a number of industrial processes. Most people have been exposed to these chemicals through consumer products, but drinking water can be an additional source of exposure in communities where these chemicals have entered water supplies.

Between 2000 and 2002, PFOS was voluntarily phased out of production in the U.S. by its primary manufacturer. In 2006, eight major companies voluntarily agreed to phase out their global production of PFOA and PFOA-related chemicals, although there are a limited number of ongoing uses. Scientists have found PFOA and PFOS in the blood of nearly all the people they tested, but these studies show that the levels of PFOA and PFOS in blood have been decreasing.* PFOA and PFOS are two chemicals from a larger family of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Newer PFAS compounds have been introduced by industry as replacements for PFOA and PFOS.*

* Source: EPA Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS

HOW DO PFOA AND PFOS GET INTO DRINKING WATER?
Due to the prolonged use of PFOA and PFOS in many common consumer products, the chemicals have been known to enter the water cycle through conventionally treated wastewater discharges from sewage treatment facilities, landfills and locations where the substances were used outdoors.

To date, Orange County Water District (OCWD) has determined that neither water produced by its Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) project nor imported water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) are a source of PFAS to the groundwater basin.

In Orange County, testing of Santa Ana River surface water has detected PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS. These results can partially be explained by the presence of PFAS in upstream treated wastewater discharges from sewage treatment facilities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. PFAS end up in sewage due to their widespread occurrence in a range of consumer products. While these are locations that can introduce PFOA and PFOS into the water system, it is important to remember that there are many other places where people can come in contact with these substances. OCWD has shared these findings with upstream water and sanitation agencies.

WHAT IS CALIFORNIA CONTINUING TO DO ABOUT PFAS?
In August 2019, the California Division of Drinking Water (DDW) issued revised guidance on their previously established interim guidelines for the Notification Levels surrounding PFOA and PFOS. The new levels are 5.1 ppt and 6.5 ppt, respectively. Results above the Notification Level require agencies to notify the governing body for the areas where the water has been served within 30 days of receiving the verifying test results. The Response Level of 70 ppt for PFOA and PFOS remained the same. If the Response Level is exceeded in drinking water provided to consumers, DDW recommends that the water agency remove the water source from service or provide treatment.

DDW has also formally requested that the Office of Environmental Health Hazzard Assessment (OEHHA) develop a draft Public Health Goal (PHG), which is the first step in establishing a Maximum Contaminant Level for PFOA and PFOS.

HOW ARE WE ADDRESSING PFAS?
Orange County Water District (OCWD) and the water retailers it serves provide some of the cleanest drinking water in the world. OCWD is committed to ensuring that the community is knowledgeable and has the resources available to understand local water quality. In addition to providing high quality supplies to retailers and ongoing monitoring of PFAS levels, OCWD is doing the following:

  • Assist water retailers it serves in compliance with DDW notification and testing requirements
  • Pilot test potential treatment techniques for removal of PFAS in groundwater
  • Work with the Regional Water Quality Control Board regulators and the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority to identify potential sources of PFAS
  • Obtain laboratory certification to test for more PFAS compounds
  • Monitor to determine extent of compounds in the groundwater basin and in recharge water supplies
  • Stay current with changing technology for both detection and treatment
  • Be transparent and communicate regularly with stakeholders

HOW WILL I KNOW IF MY WATER CONTAINS PFOA AND/OR PFOS?
Water agencies with monitoring results that indicate levels of PFOA and/or PFOS above the DDW Notification Level will be required to notify the governing body for the areas where the water has been served (i.e. City Council or County Board of Supervisors). DDW also recommends that agencies provide notifications to customers in the form of the annual Consumer Confidence Report required to be sent to each customer, website postings or bill inserts; however, these customer notifications are not mandated.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH IMPACTS OF PFOA AND PFOS?
Because these chemicals have been used in so many consumer products, most people have been exposed to them. While the production and use of these substances was phased out beginning in the early 2000s, the chemicals are highly persistent in the environment.

Animal toxicology and human epidemiological studies reported by EPA and Center for Disease Control indicate that exposure to these chemicals can cause increased cholesterol levels, a greater risk for thyroid disease and high blood pressure. The studies have also shown a decrease in response to vaccines, fertility rates in women, and infant birthweight.

WHAT ARE THE REGULATIONS THAT ARE CURRENTLY IN PLACE FOR PFOA/PFOS IN DRINKING WATER?
In summer 2018, the California Division of Drinking Water (DDW) established Notification Levels and Response Levels for PFOA and PFOS. These Notification Levels were set at 14 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and 13 ppt for PFOS. A  “part-per-trillion,” or, one nanogram per liter, is the equivalent of four grains of sugar dissolved in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The August 2019 DDW revised guidance set the Notification Levels for PFOA at 5.1 ppt and PFOS at 6.5 ppt. The state Notification Levels are based on the most sensitive known health endpoints for these compounds: lifetime cancer risk, liver toxicity, and immunotoxicity—in the case of PFOA and PFOS these standards are also the lowest level detectable through current testing means.

Notification Levels are precautionary health-based advisory levels established by DDW while further research and analysis are conducted by the state to determine the necessity of setting an enforceable drinking water maximum contaminant level (MCL). The state Notification Levels are based on the most sensitive known health endpoints for these compounds: lifetime cancer risk, liver toxicity, and immunotoxicity. An enforceable drinking water MCL can be promulgated by either the state or nationally by United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) through deliberate processes prescribed in state and federal law.

The DDW Response Level is 70 ng/L for both PFOA and PFOS. If the testing exceeds this level, DDW recommends the source be taken out of service.

WHO REGULATES DRINKING WATER IN CALIFORNIA?
The California Division of Drinking Water and United States Environmental Protections Agency (U.S. EPA) set standards and regulate drinking water in California.

HOW IS THE UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIONS AGENCY (US EPA) ADDRESSING PFAS, PFOA, AND PFOS?
On May 19, 2016, the US EPA issued a new Health Advisory for lifetime exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water set at a combined 70 parts per trillion. Based on preliminary information from EPA, 63 water suppliers in the United States detected PFOA and PFOS in their drinking water supplies. Twenty-six of these water systems are located in California.

Health advisories provide information about contaminants that can cause human health effects and are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water. EPA's health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory and provide technical information to states agencies and other public health officials about health effects, analytical methodologies, and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination. EPA’s health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS offers a margin of protection for all Americans throughout their life from adverse health effects resulting from exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.*

*Source: EPA Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS

Environmental Protection Agency PFOA/PFOS fact sheet.

Addressing Flouride in Drinking Water

Fluoride has been added to U.S. drinking water supplies since 1945. Of the 50 largest cities in the U.S., 43 fluoridate their drinking water. In December 2007, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California joined a majority of the nation's public water supplies in adding fluoride to drinking water in order to prevent tooth decay. Metropolitan is the primary supplier of imported water to Laguna Beach and many Southland residents. 

In line with recommendations from the CDPH, as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Metropolitan adjusted the natural fluoride level in imported treated water from the Colorado River and State Water Project water to the optimal range for dental health of 0.6 to 1.2 parts per million. Fluoride levels in drinking water are limited under California state regulations at a maximum dosage of 2 parts per million.

Is it harmful to my health?
Hundreds of studies have looked at whether there is a link between fluoride and cancer, as well as adverse effects on the immune system, kidneys, digestive, and reproductive system. In reviewing the body of evi­dence, the American Dental Association concluded that “the overwhelming...evidence indicates that fluoridation of community water supplies is both safe and effective.”

What if I do not want to drink fluoridated water?
Reverse osmosis or distillation home devices remove significant amounts of both naturally occurring fluoride and fluoride added through fluoridation. The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certifies certain reverse osmosis home treatment devices and distil­lation units for the reduction of fluoride. For a list of NSF certified devices, visit info.nsf.org/certified/DWTU. It is important to regularly maintain these devices for optimum effectiveness.

For more information about fluoride in drinking water visit:

Addressing Lead in Drinking Water

Out of concern for the public health issue regarding lead in drinking water, here is some valuable information.

Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing. Every three years, the District tests for lead at-the-tap of 30 residences in our service area. The 30 homes we sample throughout the District are a representative sample of the homes that might have lead plumbing components. We do this according to the EPA's Lead and Copper Rule. The testing results are used to ensure corrosion control treatment techniques are working. If the water is soft or corrosive, it can accelerate the leaching of lead and other metals from household plumbing and water fixtures.

Our 2014 tests did not detect any lead in any of the homes sampled. Tests for lead are done at the home because lead piping and solder was often used in older homes. Homes built prior to the 1930's had pipes primarily made of lead. After the 1930's and through the 1980's, copper pipes were often used however the solder to connect the pipes contained lead. Lead was a common component of solders used in plumbing until it was banned in 1991.

Corrosive water, as it passed through the Flint water system, appears to have leached lead in service pipes as it reached the homes of some residents. Switching from one water source to another without implementing necessary treatment adjustments appears to be at the root of that community's challenge. The District has never used lead pipes to deliver water to our residents and our system is operated under optimized corrosion control to minimize lead leaching from plumbing materials in older homes.

The District receives a portion of its water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Metropolitan has long imported two supplies, one from the Colorado River and the other from Northern California. Both are naturally low in corrosive qualities. But to ensure that the water that is delivered by the district is consistently so, measurements to monitor corrosion are among the 350-some constituents that are tested by Metropolitan more than 350,000 times a year at their five treatment plants. This means Southern California's drinking water receives almost 1,000 tests every single day.

The District is responsible for providing high quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. If you are concerned about the possibility of lead leaching from your household pipes, you may wish to have it tested by a certified laboratory. The District can provide the contact information for the lab we use or residents can call the County Health Department for a list. Residents can also get information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps to take to minimize exposure by calling the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or by visiting the EPA website. All water agencies are required to produce a Water Quality Report that is mailed to customers in June. You can also access the District's latest Water Quality Report online. The report covers everything the District has tested for the previous year and the results.

Addressing Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water

Americans ingest millions of prescription drugs annually, and up until now flushing unused or expired medications down the toilet was a common and accepted practice. Initially, this practice served as a poison prevention measure, but research now indicates that pharmaceuticals flushed into the water system may not necessarily be removed by sewage treatment facilities. These treatment facilities were simply not designed to eliminate pharmaceuticals in the water, which in turn may have negative affects on drinking water quality and the environment. 

Medications make their way into the environment from sources such as animal feedlots, land application of organic materials and wastewater treatment plants that treat residential, commercial, and/or industrial wastewater. Medications can enter the sewer system in various ways, but one major route is through the disposal of unused or expired medications down the toilet or drain. Once the pharmaceuticals reach the treatment plants, it is assumed that all traces of pharmaceuticals will be removed. However, these treatment plants may not necessarily be equipped to remove medications from the water. They are instead responsible for removing conventional pollutants such as solids and biodegradable materials.

Major Concerns Regarding Medications in Surface Water Bodies  
This is a complex issue and the level of risk to humans and the environment is still yet to be determined. However, the presence of increased bacterial resistance to antibiotics and interference with growth and reproduction in aquatic organisms such as fish and frogs are major concerns. It is impossible to know what combinations of medications in the water system will produce long-term risks, but in the meantime, it is important to minimize the disposal of medications into the sewage system in order to decrease the possible negative and irreversible effects pharmaceuticals may have on the environment. 

Facts about Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water

  • Many water sources—rivers, streams and groundwater—are susceptible to PPCPs and EDCs through wastewater input and/or agricultural practices.  Some of these compounds can persist through the water treatment process.
  • The presence of PPCPs and EDCs in source waters is not a new phenomenon.  These chemicals have been present since their initial use by consumers and industry.
  • The development of more sensitive analytical techniques has only recently allowed the detection of these compounds at such low environmental levels.
  • Wastewater discharge and runoff from agricultural areas are considered significant factors associated with the presence of PPCPs in surface waters.
  • A survey of Colorado River Water conducted in 2002 by the U.S. Geological Survey detected eight pharmaceutical compounds and three PPCPs; all detections were in low parts-per-billion to parts-per-trillion ranges.
  • In general, most PPCPs cannot be removed by conventional treatment.  Ozone, however, is considered one of the most cost-effective treatment technologies capable of removing a wide range of PPCPs and EDCs.  Advanced treatment processes such as membrane technology can remove most PPCPs.
  • The human health effects, if any, of drinking water with extremely low trace levels of PPCPs and EDCs are not known at this time.  This is being studied but considerably more work is required to determine whether there are any impacts.

Safe Disposal Options
The disposal options of waste medications differ from state to state, but in regions of California, there are a various options available.

  1. Submit unused or unwanted medications to local hazardous waste collection centers. It is illegal for collection centers to accept controlled substances. These are drugs that have a potential for addiction and/or abuse such as narcotics and tranquilizers. If you are unsure whether your prescription is a controlled substance, check with your doctor or pharmacist. If your medication is a controlled substance, proceed to option 2, described below.
  2. Securely seal medications and dispose out of the reach of children and pets 

Treat all medications prior to disposal 

  1. Treat all Medications: Add water and then salt, ashes from the fireplace or barbeque pit, or dirt from the yard to pills or capsules in a bottle. Add salt, ashes or dirt to liquid medications. Wrap several layers of masking tape or duct tape to cover. It is also wise to place the medications in the trash as close to the pick-up time as possible so that the medication will have a lesser chance of being ingested by someone other than the intended patient.
  2. Use original container: Tape the lid to the container with duct tape. Avoid breaks by using a plastic container versus a glass bottle. Hide medications in an outer container such as a paper bag, box or plastic tub and wrap in several layers of newspaper to prevent discovery or removal from the trash.
  3. Remove personal information: Remove the patients name, drug name, prescription number, and other sensitive information before disposal.
For More Information
Visit the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) web site for Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products Frequently Asked Questions.

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