Lake Arrowhead Community Services District Wants Federal Help Eluding PFAS Liability

The Lake Arrowhead Community Services District is seeking federal assistance in dealing with its perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances contamination problem.
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA, compose a family of more than 5,000 man-made and mostly unregulated chemicals that have been produced since the 1950s. They are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” because they are resistant to degradation in the environment and when degradation occurs, it results in the formation of additional PFAS compounds or constituents.
The precise source of the contamination has yet to be established. In October 2023, the California Environmental Protection Agency published a finding that Lake Arrowhead had a total PFAS concentration levels of 26. It has been theorized that Lake Arrowhead’s PFAS contamination is a byproduct of its Grass Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant which processes the sewer effluent from Lake Arrowhead and recycles water to irrigate the golf course at the Lake Arrowhead Country Club. The theory is that the inadequate filtration of the water has resulted in eliminating other contaminants while compounding the concentration of PFAS.
On March 7, Lake Arrowhead Community Services District General Manager Catherine Cerri sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Tom Carper, and Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito seeking liability protections for water and wastewater agencies under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).
Despite the original intent that CERCLA would require those companies responsible for contamination to pay for mitigating those situations, federal legislators are now angling toward requiring water agencies to cover such clean-up costs involving polyfluoroalkyl substances when the actual or original source of the contamination cannot be determined.
Cerri’s letter asserts it is unfair that public agencies bear the cost of removing PFAS rather than the companies that manufactured them. She called upon the legislators to protect “passive receivers” such as the Lake Arrowhead Community Services from the economic devastation that would ensue from being required to redress PFAS contamination.
Cerri asked that the federal legislature avoid shifting the blame from the manufacturers of PFAS to public agencies, which she maintains do not have the means to get to the root of the contamination. In her letter, she called for further legislative action to safeguard public water systems and reinforce CERCLA’s objective of holding polluters financially responsible for contamination remediation. She called upon Schumer, McConnell, Carper and Moore Capito to consider an approach similar to that contained in Senator Cynthia Lummis’ Senate Bill 1430, the Water Systems PFAS Liability Protection Act, which would provide exemptions from PFAS liability for public agencies.

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