GWA assures measures in place to address PFAS contamination

GWA general manager Miguel Bordallo said back-billing is a necessary tool that GWA needs to have in order to bill all customers fairly for their water usage when defective meters are discovered.

During a public hearing Wednesday for Bill 174-35, the Guam Waterworks Authority assured the community that they are placing measures to address the PFAS contamination in three wells.

The legislation sets a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for six PFAS components commonly found in drinking water for all community water systems and non-transient, non-community water systems.

According to Senator Sabina Perez, establishing a maximum contaminant level, or legal threshold limit for PFAS, ensures that these chemicals are monitored and reduced in the island’s drinking water.

The bill also requires owners and operators of public water systems to issue public notices to persons who are served by systems affected by PFAS, regardless of whether or not the MCL has been violated.

During the public hearing, GWA general manager Miguel Bordallo says that the waterworks authority supports the intent of the bill and that they are currently treating the three wells reported to be contaminated with PFAS.

“First I’d like to point out that the number of wells that have been impacted by PFAS — 3 out of 120 — is a very small percentage. Our entire water system is not impacted. However, the well is not discreet to communities. For example, 823 and 825 are located in Agana next to the Shopping Center but the water from those wells enters the distribution system — that serves hydraulically it flows down to Piti,” Bordallo said.

He added: “We did have other wells that did test — but they were below the health advisory level in the past. Currently, it’s those three wells that GWA operates that are impacted. As I mentioned in the previous hearing, 283 and 285 are still down. We will be putting a treatment system in for those wells. NAS1 is currently operating and the levels are still below the health advisory levels but we are still treating it with the carbon filters.”

PFAS chemicals, known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down, are linked to health impacts ranging from elevated cholesterol and reproductive harm to developmental delays and even an increased risk of certain cancers.

Bill 174-35 is the second bill to address the threat of PFAS on Guam. Another bill — the Prutehi I Hanom Act —- was later passed into law to authorize Guam’s Attorney General to hire specialized legal services to litigate PFAS manufacturers.