Yesterday morning, CFPUA was informed by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) that several unregulated compounds were identified in the Cape Fear River. A preliminary report, released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indicates that the treatment technology at Sweeney Water Treatment Plant is unable to remove these compounds from the water.
CFPUA takes its responsibility to provide clean drinking water to residents of New Hanover County seriously, which is why we have begun a multi-pronged campaign to attack the issue head-on. We are employing a mix of short and long-term strategies, in the legal, technological and research arenas, to ensure that the community can remain confident in the public water supply.
On the legal front, CFPUA has taken several actions. Yesterday, CFPUA sent a letter to DEQ, the regulatory agency for Chemours, asking that they revoke Chemours’ discharge permit until more data can be gathered regarding the health effects of compounds such as GenX and Nafion byproducts. This morning, in conversations with DEQ and DHHS again, CFPUA repeated those demands. Until we are able to gather sufficient health data on these emerging contaminants, CFPUA believes the responsible action is to stop them at the source.
In addition to those immediate requests, CFPUA is now 29 days into the 60-day waiting period after it informed Chemours and Dupont of its intent to bring a citizens law suit against them to enforce requirement of the Clean Water Act. Once 60 days has passed, CFPUA will be able to begin formal proceedings.
The goal of the legal proceedings will be to address the root cause of the issue—the release of unregulated contaminants into a major source of drinking water. A strong regulatory process, based on scientific data, is critical in ensuring that local water utilities, such as CFPUA, are able to treat raw water with all of the necessary information in hand.
CFPUA also recognizes, however, that new chemicals are created quickly, and that a second line of protection is required beyond the permitting process. For this reason, CFPUA has begun pilot testing two new technologies that may give Sweeney Water Treatment Plant the ability to treat per- and polyfluorinated compounds.
Granular Activated Carbon and Ion Exchange technologies have shown some success in removing compounds like GenX, and the pilot test will give us an idea of how to best fit these new technologies into our existing treatment processes. CFPUA staff is continuously monitoring the treated water from these tests so that we know the timeline for when “breakthrough” occurs—the point at which the filters allow the compound through and they need to be replaced. Once a timeline is established, CFPUA will have a better idea of how, and if, we can integrate the technology into the plant and the costs of doing so.
Finally, CFPUA wants to invest in long-term strategies that may help us understand the effects of these compounds on the river and water systems. For this reason, we have partnered with the University of North Carolina Wilmington, experts in the chemistry of the Cape Fear River Basin with state of the art technology in their laboratories, to help us identify new chemicals in the river and investigate their impacts on water treatment and distribution. As stated in the contract, all of these results will be made available to the public.
In all of these actions, legal, technological and academic, CFPUA has enlisted the help of experts in their fields. Our partnerships with the local and state health departments, local representatives of the regulatory agencies, and with researchers from universities have been invaluable in the creation of a campaign CFPUA feels confident will produce real and meaningful results in the local water quality.
CFPUA will continue to keep the public informed through these updates, which are sent to local and state-wide media outlets and are posted on our website and social media accounts. We are also available by phone to answer any questions at: 910-332-6625, or by email at email@example.com.