Aqua Receives Grant to Add PFAS Treatment to Local Areas

Aqua PENNVEST grant infrastructure
Image via Aqua.

Essential Utilities Inc. has announced that subsidiary Aqua Pennsylvania received approval by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Authority for a PENNVEST grant to construct a treatment facility for two of its Hatboro well stations in Horsham Township, Montgomery County. The treatment will remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which have found their way into Pennsylvania’s waterways due to widespread industrial uses in fire-fighting foams, carpets, clothing, furniture fabrics, paper packaging for food, and other materials that are resistant to water, grease, or stains.  

The $5.5 million grant, which alleviates the cost of treatment for Aqua ratepayers, will help support Aqua’s construction of new ion exchange contactors and related well station improvements to accommodate the new treatment. The infrastructure work benefits customers in West Goshen Township.

Since 2018, Aqua has worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to complete studies showing that the proposed resin treatment system will provide the desired treatment to Aqua’s wells. Most recently, Aqua received a PENNVEST loan to construct a similar treatment facility at its North Hills well in Upper Dublin Township. 

“Aqua Pennsylvania and Essential Utilities have led the way on PFAS remediation in this region, through transparent communication with our customers via, a forward-looking action plan for treatment, and setting our own company-wide standard as we await regulatory guidance,” said Essential Chairman and CEO Christopher H. Franklin. “Just as significantly, we are advocating for our customers by seeking alternate funding for PFAS remediation—from filing suit against the responsible chemical manufacturers, to successfully applying for grants like PENNVEST to minimize the financial burden on our customers.” 

This is the second PENNVEST grant the company has secured. In 2020, it received $4.5 million for the construction of a PFAS treatment facility at the North Hills well station in Abington Township, which was voluntarily removed from service in 2016 due to PFAS testing results. That well is expected to be returned to service by the end of 2022. 

On behalf of Aqua Pennsylvania I want to thank the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and PENNVEST for their support in helping us secure this grant, which will improve drinking water quality by continuing our efforts to minimize the presence of PFAS in our local communities without impacting water rates. This helps us to achieve our mission of protecting and providing earth’s most essential resource,” said Aqua Pennsylvania President Marc Lucca. “This is an issue of primary importance to us as a drinking water utility and to our broader community, we remain committed to working hard for our customers.” 

Aqua Pennsylvania began reporting monthly PFAS testing results in 2016, and in 2018, the company created an action plan to make significant investments to help treat for PFAS. Aqua has invested over $1 million in equipment to increase laboratory testing capacity; installed granular activated carbon and resin filters on four systems with the highest level of PFAS; conducted engineering evaluations of the Neshaminy water treatment plant and evaluated the effectiveness of the Horsham Air National Guard’s treatment system based on contaminant levels in the Neshaminy Creek; and assessed alternative treatment options, including ion exchange resins and other technologies. 

In 2020, Aqua proactively established a company-wide standard of 13 parts per trillion (PPT) for PFAS, which was significantly less than the 2016 Environmental Protection Agency health advisory level of 70 PPT. This treatment standard, which was based on the most stringent state guidance at the time, enabled the company to address contaminants uniformly across nearly 1,500 water systems in the company’s eight-state footprint. 

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