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PFAS Update

Understanding PFAS

PFOA and PFOS are part of a larger family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.  PFOA stands for perfluorooctanoic acid while PFOS is perfluorooctane sulfonate.  PFOA and PFOS are two chemicals that the City, the Orange County Water District, and other agencies across Orange County are watching for in water.

PFAS Fact Sheet (OCWD)  / PFAS FAQ
PFAS Briefing (AWWA)


Dating back to the 1940s, PFOA and PFOS have been commonly used to coat carpets, clothes, furniture, food packaging, cookware and other products.  We’ve all encountered PFOA and PFOS in our daily lives.

They were popular for their resistance to water, stains or stuff sticking, which made them particularly useful in cookware.  They were also used in fire-fighting foams, cleaning products and industrial uses.


In the 2000s, manufacturers began voluntarily phasing out the use of PFOA and PFOS under a federal Environmental Protection Agency program. 

PFOA and PFOS are no longer produced in the United States.

They still are produced in and imported from other countries, however. The good news is that they are being phased out (with some exemptions) under a ban put forth in mid-2019 under the Stockholm Convention, an international treaty covering pollutants.

What’s the issue?

Scientific studies have shown that long-term exposure to PFOA and PFOS at high levels can cause health issues, particularly for those who have weaker immune systems.

In California, the state Division of Drinking Water (DDW) has established what are known as  “Notification Levels” and “Response Levels” for water agencies encountering PFOA and PFOS.

Results above the Notification Level requires water agencies to notify government officials when a measure exceeds the notification level.

For PFOA, California’s Notification Level is 5.1 parts per trillion.
For PFOS, it is 6.5 parts per trillion.

If the results exceed the Response Level, DDW recommends that the water agency remove the water source from service or provide treatment.

For PFOA, California's Response Level is 10 parts per trillion.
For PFOS, it is 40 parts per trillion.

Parts per million, billion or trillion are ways to measure tiny amounts of something in water or air.  It is a microscopic measurement: part per trillion is the equivalent to four grains of sugar dissolved in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

We are closely monitoring for PFOA and PFOS in our water, in accordance with state and federal guidelines.

PFOA, PFOS in Fullerton

Tiny amounts of PFOA and PFOS are not unique to Fullerton — they are found throughout Orange County among communities served by the region’s groundwater supply. PFOA and PFOS are common in groundwater in urban and industrial areas.  In Orange County, what we are encountering is believed to be remnant traces from consumer products and factories, military bases and other industrial uses all around us in Southern California.  The chemicals can make their way into rivers, such as the Santa Ana River, which replenishes much of Orange County’s groundwater.

Our goal is water free of PFOA and PFOS. In the near term, unfortunately, we are likely to continue encountering traces of PFOA and PFOS in groundwater for reasons beyond our control.

Fullerton’s water is thoroughly treated and tested to ensure it meets some of the highest standards in the world.  We’re currently evaluating the use of other water sources as well as new treatment methods to remove PFOA and PFOS from groundwater.

Our latest PFOA and PFOS test results can be found here

What Fullerton is doing about PFOA and PFOS?

We watch closely for PFOA and PFOS in Fullerton’s water and will ensure that our city’s water meets or exceeds state and federal regulations.  The following is part of our action plan related to PFOA and PFAS:

  • Continue monitoring PFOA and PFOS levels in all of our Main Plant wells and forebay by conducting quarterly sampling of these sources.

  • Making quarterly test results available to the public through our website

  • Notifying local government officials of areas served by the city’s groundwater sources that have exceeded the Notification Levels for PFOA and PFOS

  • Staying current with State and Federal regulations to assure our drinking water is safe for consumption

  • Reviewing long term solutions with the Orange County Water District

  • Anyone with questions or concerns can contact the Fullerton Water Quality Specialist at (714) 738-2835 or email watereng@cityoffullerton.com.

    Additional Information:

    Environmental Protection Agency
    California Water Boards - Division of Drinking Water
    US Food and Drug Administration
    Orange County Water District (OCWD)

    OCWD PFAS Monthly Updates: May 29, 2020 / April 27, 2020 / Previous updates

    Updated 11/03/2020