WILMINGTON — Tidal Creek Co-op wants to improve Wilmington residents’ access to clean water. The co-op plans to purchase a reverse osmosis filtration system for DREAMS of Wilmington, which is located on the north side of downtown.
Marketing and Outreach Coordinator for the co-op, Shaylah Paul, said that is an area of the city where many people walk to get to where they’re going.
According to Paul, a permanent filtration system will simplify the process for them to get to water, and at minimal cost.
“We have in our store a reverse osmosis filtration machine where people can bring in their own jugs and fill up,” Paul said. “It’s awesome because it’s a bulk system, so it reduces plastic waste, and it’s really cost effective.”
Tidal Creek operates a identical machine, selling bulk water at 45 cents per gallon. One-hundred percent of the profit from these sales will be going toward the estimated $9,000 system for DREAMS, a youth development center, which will then be able to help supply the downtown area with clean drinking water.
“It will be open to the public so that people can come bring their bottles and fill it up in that area,” Paul said. “So, that way, if they don’t have access to transportation to get to places like Tidal Creek, Whole Foods, or Food Lion, which I know has a couple of machines, they’ll be able to get clean water.”
After the recent revelation of the emerging chemical GenX in the Cape Fear River, many citizens of southeastern North Carolina are unwilling to trust public water, leaving them to seek out alternative sources.
What about GenX?
Although the company that builds the filters, National Water Services Inc., claims these reverse osmosis filtration systems can remove emerging chemicals like GenX from the water, evidence or independent verification that its system is capable of doing so has not been provided.
However, Chris Donnelly, operations manager for National Water, directed attention to a 2016 report from the Environmental Protection Agency, that states, “In some cases, drinking water systems can reduce concentrations of perfluoroalkyl substances, including PFOA and PFOS, by closing contaminated wells or changing rates of blending of water sources.
“Alternatively, public water systems can treat source water with activated carbon or high pressure membrane systems (e.g., reverse osmosis) to remove PFOA and PFOS from drinking water.”
While the EPA stands behind their report, they stopped short of saying these filtration systems can specifically remove GenX from the water, saying, “The EPA has looked at the treatability of PFOA and PFOS, but has not evaluated any data on the treatment of GenX.”
Despite this, these reverse osmosis carbon filtration systems, like the one at Tidal Creek are highly effective for removing many dangerous chemicals and other toxins that are in the water.
According to the EPA, surface runoff dissolves naturally occurring minerals on it’s way to our water sources. While that’s not necessarily a problem, some of the other materials it picks up along the way is.
The EPA says that surface runoff can contain a wide range of toxins, including radioactive material, human and animal waste, microbial bacteria, viruses, metals, pesticides, herbicides, as well as synthetic and volatile organic substances that are the result of industrial waste.
Clean water for everyone
Paul said Tidal Creek would like to have its efforts gain traction, ideally partnering with other local organizations for interactive and fun fundraisers, so they can raise the money as quickly as possible. That would allow the co-op to install this system at DREAMS, then repeat the process somewhere else.
According to Paul, Tidal Creek has already pinpointed the Martin Luther King Center on the south side of town as its next project.
“We’re hoping to also send a message to our leaders, from the civic leaders to the water authorities, to even some of these larger corporations themselves that have who have quote, unquote ‘taken responsibility’ for these pollutants in our water,” Paul said. “We’re taking action because we haven’t seen them do so, and we’re hoping to send the message that people are really concerned, and that people need clean water as a right, not a privilege.”
Paul said that in the end, Tidal Creek would like to unite all the separate organizations who are working toward a sustainable water solution across the area. She said these groups all have the same goal: making clean water available to everybody.
“You hear about all these initiatives for people collecting water, doing water shares, taking water donations,” Paul said. “If all of those groups came and purchased that water from our bulk systems, not only would they be able to donate clean water to the people, but then all of those proceeds would go to a sustainable solution to a really large sector of the population.”