CFPUA has been selected to present next week, on Tuesday, May 22, at the PFAS National Leadership Summit and Engagement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. Carel Vandermeyden, Director of Engineering, will speak about the challenges of monitoring, and treating for, per-fluorinated compounds in drinking water.
While the event is by invitation only, the public can live stream portions of the summit, including the keynote address by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, on the EPA website beginning at 8:30 am on May 22. The website, www.epa.gov/live will be available only during the conference hours. Other notable speakers include representatives from: Department of Defense, state Departments of Public Health, EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
CFPUA will be releasing our presentation to the public through our weekly update next week.
CFPUA has learned that The Chemours Company has submitted a formal request for an Interim Maximum Allowable Concentration (IMAC) of 70,000 parts per trillion (ppt) for GenX in groundwater. The State has not established an allowable concentration of GenX in groundwater. GenX and other perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) have been detected in groundwater around the area of the Fayetteville Works facility. The groundwater contamination is due at least in part to historic air emissions of PFCs from Fayetteville Works, resulting in deposition of the compounds on soil that eventually infiltrates the groundwater.
In June 2017, CFPUA conducted testing for GenX in our two drinking water systems fed by groundwater sources and the compound was not detected. However, it is likely that groundwater in the Fayetteville Works area makes its way to the Cape Fear River—potentially affecting the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant source water. Given the possibility for contamination into the future, we oppose the request for an IMAC of 70,000 ppt and we will be filing a formal opposition to the petition to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.
In July 2017, NCDHHS lowered its preliminary health advisory level of GenX from 71,000 ppt to 140 ppt after consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency. In November 2016, EPA lowered its health advisory level for two related PFCs also detected in the groundwater—PFOA and PFOS—to 70 ppt combined. Preliminary health advisories have not been issued for the other PFCs that have been found in the Cape Fear River, and there is no information on the combined health effects of all PFCs in the Cape Fear River. Proper consideration of PFC-related health studies should include information about the effects of these compounds both individually and together.
In August 2017, Governor Roy Cooper expanded the scope of the Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board to include an evaluation of the human health impacts from emerging contaminants. Until NCDHHS can provide information on the combined health effects of PFCs, and until NCDEQ sets enforceable regulatory standards for these compounds based on that information, CFPUA believes they should not be in the source waters for downstream communities such as ours.
Additionally, last summer, CFPUA discovered GenX in our Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) well—a project that was designed to store finished water from the Sweeney Plant underground and distribute it to our surface water system during periods of high demand. This project was a multi-million-dollar investment made by our ratepayers to protect the community from the consequences of drought or an emergency loss of water, such as a main break or a supply interruption.
Due to upstream discharge from Chemours, water containing PFCs was unknowingly injected into the ASR and was detected in the groundwater surrounding the well. We were required to take action by permit, and NCDEQ approved the proposal we submitted. CFPUA pumped 50 million gallons of water from the well to our wastewater treatment plant to reduce the levels of GenX in the aquifer. Results from the most recent round of testing in the ASR well show GenX levels of 84 ppt, which is well below the 140 ppt health advisory level issued by NCDHHS.
CFPUA has been working with North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) to remediate the contamination and find a solution to allow for its use in the future. On August 4, 2017, CFPUA petitioned NCDEQ for an IMAC to help us find the best path forward to protect the investment made in the ASR project. CFPUA believes a groundwater standard for the compound must be based on rigorous scientific research and must be protective of public health. North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) currently has a preliminary health advisory level for the compound of 140 ppt.
On Wednesday, May 9, the CFPUA Board authorized staff to move forward in negotiating a design contract for the implementation of Granular Activated Carbon at the Sweeney Plant. Granular Activated Carbon has been proven to be effective in reducing the levels of GenX, and other per-fluorinated compounds (PFCs), in the water. As our pilot study made clear, however, if levels of GenX and other PFCs return to levels seen in the past, this new technology possibly would not be effective.