The Zone 7 Water Agency recently unveiled its new state-of-the-art water treatment facility, which will use an ion exchange treatment process to remove PFAS chemicals from the Stoneridge groundwater well in Pleasanton.
"It's finally here ... and it's going to work," Zone 7 Board President Sandy Figuers said during the Sept. 13 facility ribbon-cutting ceremony. "It's going to give us a lot of good water, especially for Pleasanton."
Nearly 30 Tri-Valley officials, residents and Zone 7 staff members gathered for the event to celebrate the first-of-its-kind facility in Northern California.
Located on Stoneridge Drive just west of Mohr Elementary School, the Ion Exchange PFAS Treatment Facility uses tanks that are filled with small ion-exchange polymers, which are designed to attract PFAS chemicals, otherwise known as forever chemicals, in the water.
Once the chemicals are separated, the facility then works to pump and deliver the now clean water to homes and businesses. Zone 7 officials stated that the new facility will help treat 6.6 million gallons of water per day.
"Thanks to this, we're going to have clean water, safe water, PFAS free, and we're going to be able to put this well back into the Zone 7 water portfolio, and make sure that we have adequate water for residents, for businesses of the Tri-Valley, which is so important for our well-being," said Zone 7 Director Kathy Narum, a former Pleasanton councilmember.
"This well is the gusher for Zone 7 -- it's the largest producer," she added. "Getting this back on with clean, safe, water adds to the Zone 7 water portfolio and the diversification because who knows when the next drought is going to be?"
According to Zone 7 General Manager Valerie Pryor, staff had been working on getting the facility up and running for about 13 months ever since the State Water Resources Control Board announced a new draft response level for a PFAS compound that put the Stoneridge well out of service.
However, once that regulation went into effect in October 2022, she said staff really took the initiative in quickly seeking approval to purchase the vessel tanks that are now being used at the facility.
"If you look at the timeline of what went on with this project ... it's really due to our staff that the project has been put forward in such a timely manner," Zone 7 Director Sarah Palmer said during the Sept. 13 ceremony.
She said that with all of the recent announcements surrounding PFAS contamination in Pleasanton's groundwater wells and in the Tri-Valley, when Zone 7 staff decided to shut down those certain wells -- even before they were legally required to do so -- it showed proactive steps in addressing the problem.
She also said that when staff came up with the idea to purchase vessels for the treatment facility, they were really looking ahead in order to best serve the community.
"Because of their genius in basically looking forward and getting these vessels laid out and ready for us, we have a project now, which is ready to go and we can turn these wells on again," Palmer said.
Dennis Gambs, Zone 7 vice president, added that the facility is particularly important because it allows Zone 7 to use its largest well to provide water during times of drought, like it previously did during the last one.
"Treating PFAS is a clinical part of making deployment of a water supply safe and reliable," Gambs said.
According to Pryor, the project had a total value cost of $16.3 million that Zone 7 was planning on paying off by using its water rates. However, she told the Weekly that the agency had received the news the day before the ceremony that it was receiving a $16 million grant from the California Department of Water Resources, which would cover most of the project cost.
She also said that a second, similar facility is currently in the works for the Zone 7 Chain of Lakes wells, which is located just east of the Stoneridge well. She said the contractors have been hired and that with that project getting mobilized by the end of the month, she hopes to have that second facility up and running by next year.
"Our water partners with Zone 7 are taking the lead in removing PFAS from this first well here on Stoneridge Drive," Mayor Karla Brown told the Weekly. "This is an extremely successful project. We're so appreciative of Zone 7, doing PFAS-free water distribution within the city of Pleasanton."