Emerging Contaminants: Situational Management Staying Ahead of the Issue
Wednesday, August 9, 2017: 11:10 a.m.
The management of public and private drinking water supplies impacted with emerging contaminants such as Poly- and Perfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS) can present several unique challenges. With these contaminants being identified in an increasing number of water supplies, a system is needed to prioritize analysis of water resources that are utilized by the public either through municipal or private systems. When an issue is identified, clarity of communication becomes paramount. Any public communication strategy needs to acknowledge the breadth of information readily and rapidly available to most people today, and be prepared to deal with potential confusion or misunderstandings. Providing accurate, relevant information about emerging contaminants can be especially challenging as they often have fluid or varying levels of regulation and their potential risks are often poorly understood by the public. The response action to an impact needs to be well coordinated and consider both short- and long-term solutions. Many technical challenges can also arise when emerging contaminants need to be treated, either at existing treatment plants or in individual residences. Technically sound but expedient testing may be required to refine the treatment design depending on the nature of the contaminant of concern. A holistic approach to managing impacts that encompasses communication, organization, and technology is necessary to respond to drinking water supplies impacted by emerging contaminants such as PFAS.