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Artesian invests in infrastructure for PFAS testing

Katie Tabeling
Artesian Resources Newark Delaware

Artesian Resources has already spent $3.9 million on upgrading equipment at 10 facilities to treat for “forever chemicals.”  PHOTO COURTESY OF ARTESIAN RESOURCES

NEWARK Artesian Resources, the water and wastewater company, is planning to install treatment systems to meet new federal guidelines to detect so-called “forever chemicals” in drinking water.

The company plans to upgrade the treatment equipment that detects per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals at three of its water treatment facilities.

By the end of 2023, the company had spent $3.9 million on upgrading equipment at 10 facilities, however that does not include ongoing expenses to monitor and test the process.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled new regulations in April that placed strict limits on the PFAS chemicals which have been used in firefighting foam, nonstick cookware, water-repellent fabric and more. Over the years, the chemicals have been linked to serious health issues like kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, low birth weight and high cholesterol.

PFAS are sometimes called “forever chemicals” because of their extremely long degradation period in the environment, notably leaching into the groundwater and tracing to drinking water. The EPA expects excess PFAS levels to be found in about 6 to 10% of water systems, potentially affecting 100 million systems in the country.

The new EPA regulations require water systems to monitor six PFAS chemicals and remove them if they are above allowed levels. Public water systems have five years to address the issue, including three years to sample their systems and establish the level of PFAS contamination.

From there, the public water systems have another two years to install water treatment technologies if the levels are too high. The EPA estimates that it will cost $1.5 billion for companies for ongoing monitoring and testing.

Artesian’s priority is the provision of safe, reliable water to customers. We have been at the forefront of efforts to monitor for PFAS and be proactive in the installation of treatment based on the guidance available prior to EPA’s action to establish a final drinking water standard,” Artesian Water Company President Nicki Taylor said.

Artesian supplies 8.7 billion gallons of water per year through 1,442 miles of water main to over a third of Delawareans. It has been steadily growing its service network to include southern Delaware, but it also has customers in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

In its 2023 annual report, Artesian predicted it would spend $55.6 million in investments this year, including $16.4 million in part for PFAS treatment equipment, as well as rehabilitation of storage tanks, booster station improvements and other equipment and wells throughout the tri-state region.

Artesian Director of Customer Relations Virginia Eisenbrey told the Delaware Business Times that the company has started sampling water and installing treatment equipment as early as 2013 as part of the EPA’s rule on monitoring contaminants.

“This proactive approach over the past decade of testing and treating PFAS substances is clear evidence of our commitment to providing high-quality water to customers,” Eisenbrey said.

She added Artesian has renewed or replaced more than 5 miles of water mains and upgraded a facility that provides water to its largest service area in New Castle County.

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