Dayton to combat PFAS with upgrades to water treatment system, lab expansion

Dayton plans to expand its water testing lab and enhance its water treatment system to try to remove “forever chemicals” in the water supply at a time of growing concerns about contamination.

A recently approved agreement will “begin planning for the design on a multi-million dollar construction project that will ensure the city continues to maintain high-quality drinking water for its customers,” said LaShea Lofton, Dayton’s deputy city manager.

The Dayton City Commission recently approved a $3.5 million contract with Tetra Tech Inc. for planning and preliminary design work related to the advance treatment of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—commonly known as PFAS — at the Ottawa water treatment plant.

This project will provide a design for a drinking water treatment system that will remove additional contaminants from the city’s drinking water, said Mike Powell, Dayton’s director of water.

The city, which has two water treatment plants, wants a new treatment process that specifically eliminates PFAS in its finished water and allows for the treatment of future emerging contaminates.

Tetra Tech will be expected to complete a planning study and 30% of preliminary design drawings, the city said.

The company won the contract after responding to a request for proposals for “end of pipe treatment” at the Ottawa plant. The RFP said the city wants a study that considers all treatment options to bring the PFAS level below the health advisory limit.

The design work likely will start this year and be completed in 2024, Powell said.

Experts warn that even small amounts of PFAS can be harmful to humans, and exposure to the man-made compounds has been linked with health issues such as kidney and testicular cancer, weakened immunity, endocrine disruption, fertility problems, and decreased birth weight.

Dayton also recently issued a request for proposals to expand its water quality testing laboratory.

This will be the first upgrade and expansion of the 15,530-square-foot lab since it was first constructed in 1991, Powell said.

”The purpose of the upgrade is to accommodate the analytical changes and regulatory requirements that have taken place over the last 30 years, ensuring the laboratory stays relevant as the regulatory climate changes,” he said.

The lab consists of an organic lab, metals lab, wet chemistry lab, microbiology lab, bacteriology lab, lime quality control lab and and other supporting areas, Powell said.

The lab analyzed more than 39,000 samples in 2022 and it is on track to analyze that many or more samples this year, he said.

PFAS sampling and analysis is difficult and expensive and few labs in Ohio are capable of doing the work, Powell said, but the city’s water quality lab has these capabilities.

Powell said this helps reduce the burden on ratepayers and the city eventually will be able to complete PFAS testing for other regional municipalities.

The RFP says the city is searching for a consultant to complete a needs assessment that includes a PFAS-specific analysis lab, a PFAS sampling preparation space, a PFAS extraction space and a PFAS purge water storage.

The lab expansion project will be funded with a loan from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Division of Environmental & Financial Assistance.

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