The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority Board on Wednesday approved a special temporary bulk water rate that is available to the Town of Wrightsville Beach. The Board also authorized Board Chairman William Norris and CFPUA staff to negotiate an interlocal agreement with the Town regarding terms of the special rate.
The special rate, 65 cents per 1,000 gallons, is designed to be a short-term option, providing a supplemental water source to address a regional issue. It would be available to Wrightsville Beach during the summer season over a three-year period.
The normal bulk water-resale rate is $3.48 per 1,000 gallons. The special mutual-aid rate will be recalculated annually to account for changes in prices for inputs such as chemicals and energy.
An interconnect already exists between CFPUA’s and the Town’s water systems, for use in case of emergencies.
CFPUA is offering the special rate to provide a supplemental water source to Wrightsville Beach following the discovery this year of PFAS compounds in the Town’s Well Number 11, which had been taken out of service by the Town before the discovery.
Test results that included water from Well 11 that became available in February indicated a total PFAS concentration in the aquifer of 621.16 parts per trillion (ppt). This total includes a concentration of 37 ppt for GenX, below the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ health advisory of 140 ppt.
The compounds contributing the overwhelming majority to that total concentration – more than 95 percent – have been found only downstream of Chemours’ Fayetteville Works plant.
These same compounds are among those referenced as “Attachment C” in the recently approved consent order that outlines a number of steps required to settle pending claims against Chemours by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) and Cape Fear River Watch.
The PFAS compounds in the Town's well are believed to have migrated from CFPUA’s nearby Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) well. The ASR was designed to store finished drinking water from the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant in the Upper PeeDee Aquifer. During periods of high demand, that water could have supplemented CFPUA’s normal water supply.
In 2017, CFPUA suspended a pilot program to inject water into the ASR after GenX from Chemours was detected in water from the well.
Subsequently, CFPUA pumped about 50 million gallons of water from the ASR, a measure that helped reduce GenX concentrations in the ASR below the state’s 140 ppt health advisory.
CFPUA has been in regular communication with the NCDEQ regarding these test results and other information regarding the ASR.
The consent order between the state and Chemours includes a number of provisions that direct Chemours to provide relief for people near its chemical plant on the Bladen-Cumberland county line whose drinking water wells have been determined to contain PFAS compounds resulting from Chemours’ decades of releases.
Residents in New Hanover County also are dealing with PFAS compounds in their groundwater, PFAS that overwhelmingly originated from Chemours. North Carolina regulators took the right action in insisting that Chemours address affected wells around the Fayetteville Works. CFPUA believes the right action in this case calls for extending the same consideration to affected groundwater users in New Hanover County.