WILMINGTON—The discovery of the chemical compound known as GenX in the Cape Fear River has cost ratepayers more than just peace of mind.
As of this month, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has spent approximately $1.7 million dealing with the compound and is preparing to spend $46 million more to potentially remedy the situation.
Executive Director of CFPUA Jim Flechtner made a presentation to the CFPUA Board Wednesday regarding emerging contaminants, and potential solutions.
But treating water does not come cheap, upgrading the plant is expected to cost $46 million upfront, as well as $2.7 million annually. This expense would be passed onto the ratepayers for the next 25-years.
(Listen to the explanation of how CFPUA would fund the $46 million treatment upgrades)
“Every $1 million is about a 1.4 percent rate increase to our overall rates and that is something that our customers shouldn’t have to pay, but the reality is the legal process … won’t move fast enough to get that resolved before we are faced with the financial decision and policy decision of what do we do at our plant,” Flechtner said.
“To fund this we would issue debt, we would issue bonds that would be paid by the ratepayers over the next 25-years, that’s about a 7-percent rate increase.” —jim flechtner
According to the presentation, this 7-percent rate increase would be on average $60 more annually, or $5 a month.
Drinking water standards
The EPA is responsible for setting the national drinking water standards, and researches health effects of chemicals and compounds.
Currently there are, “85,000 chemicals are registered under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Fewer than 10,000 of those have toxicological studies associated with them,” according to Flechtner.
While the level of GenX detected at at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant has decreased over the past year, there are still unknown per-fluorinated compounds in the drinking water.
CFPUA utilized a pilot program to test different filtration methods to understand what methods best remove these compounds.
According to Flechtner, “Granular activated carbon is the best overall treatment alternative for the Sweeney Plant. It offers highly effective PFC removal, promotes flexibility and complements other advanced treatment processes investments previously made in the Plant.”
The past events have proven that CFPUA and its customers cannot rely on the EPA or regulations to protect drinking water, and approving the GAC water treatment will help resolve drinking water concerns, he said.
The board ultimately authorized Flechtner to move forward with negotiations for a design contract for the enhancements. This did not require the board to approve funding at that time.
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