NEW HANOVER COUNTY—The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has received nearly a half million dollars in state funds to study and test for GenX and other emerging contaminants.
The funding comes after a year of partisan debate over how efforts to identify and remove per-fluorinated chemicals like GenX, Nafion byproducts, and others from drinking water. Democrats, including Representative Deb Butler, have criticized CFPUA’s methods, and argued that funds should be directed towards centralized research at the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. Republicans, including State Senator Michael Lee, have argued for funding the agencies “on the front line,” including CFPUA and UNCW.
What the funding will support
CFPUA will be required to use the funding, allocated in the state’s 2018 budget, for several water-quality operations, including the sampling of drinking water from the Sweeny Water Treatment Plant and CFPUA’s Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) system.
Because the aquifer stores water from the Cape Fear River, it collected GenX – also known as PFAS – and other contaminants that, as CFPUA discovered last year, the Sweeny plant is currently incapable of filtering out.
CFPUA has not determined the fate of the ASR system, but has been in discussion with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. If CFPUA can develop filtering systems capable of rendering out an acceptable amount of GenX, the aquifer “could potentially serve as a potable water source,” according to CFPUA.
If CFPUA cannot filter contaminants out of the aquifer water, it is unclear what will become of the ASR system.
According to CFPUA, “We look forward to sharing the information gained from this study with other municipalities and utilities facing the challenge of PFAS contamination in groundwater, and we thank the General Assembly for designating these funds. Pilot testing of this kind will be critical in determining the next steps forward in addressing the presence of PFAS compounds in much of our community’s source water.”
After CFPUA’s water testing program is complete, the remaining state funds will be used to experiment with mobile treatment units which could remove contaminants from the aquifer.
According to CFPUA, the authority “will keep the public up-to-date with regular releases and information on our website. We will also be providing progress reports to the General Assembly and to members of the Senate Select Committee on North Carolina River Water Quality and House Select Committee on North Carolina River Quality. Our local Senators Michael Lee and Bill Rabon and Representatives Ted Davis, Jr. and Holly Grange serve on those committees.”
Testing at Fayetteville Chemours site
CFPUA staff have also been allowed onto the Fayetteville Works facility to sample water there. The facility, shared by Chemours, DuPont and Kurary America, has refused access to utilities like CFPUA since last year.
After an Eastern District judge ordered Chemours to allow CFPUA onto the facility grounds, testing finally took place last week.