Sunday, August 7, 2022

CFPUA addresses concerns about animal waste, biological spills, and coal ash in water supply

CFPUA denied that Duke's Sutton facility flooding would impact drinking water, and addressed other concerns as well.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The Cape Fear River has taken a beating the last two weeks: atop long-running concerns of contaminants like GenX, Hurricane Florence has added waste from thousands of dead hogs, millions of dead chickens, millions of gallons of wastewater, and coal ash from Duke’s now-flooded Sutton facility.

Today, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) stated it shared those concerns, although the utility specifically stated that media reports of the threat to the drinking water posed by the Duke coal ash flood were “incorrect.”

According to CFPUA, the utility “wants to address continued news reports and social media stories concerning drinking water quality. As we survey the storm’s damage and more stories emerge about animal waste, biological spills, and coal ash, we understand more about the storm’s impacts on the environment. Large numbers of trees are down across the region and storm surge and riparian flooding have led to some water quality concerns in local creeks, wetlands, and ponds.

CFPUA stated that its water system “remains stable.” According to the utility, preemptive measures were taken to address possible contamination, as well as additional steps “to ensure water quality during the recovery phase.”

CFPUA listed the following steps that had been taken:

  • The Sweeney Water Treatment Plant is a state-of-the-art plant. It is exceptionally effective at eliminating the additional waste loading currently found in the Cape Fear River. Ozone is the primary treatment process and is extraordinarily powerful in removing biological contamination. After the ozone treatment process, the water is further treated to ensure the best water quality possible.
  • Our Richardson plant treats groundwater with a nanofiltration system that use membranes to produce the best water quality possible.
  • Both the Sweeney and Richardson water treatment plants have produced potable water throughout Hurricane Florence and her aftermath. CFPUA has produced more than 100 million gallons of potable water since Florence began. All of our plants have continuously produced water meeting all State and Federal standards without interruption.
  • Media reports stating coal ash from the Duke Energy site could cause drinking water contamination in Wilmington are incorrect. CFPUA’s drinking water intake is located more than 20 miles above the breach that occurred along the Sutton Lake dam.
  • Throughout the storm, CFPUA’s Environmental Safety and Management staff monitored water quality using a variety of tools. For many contaminants in the river, CFPUA and our regional partners have established on-line monitoring tools at our intakes that continuously collect data on levels of certain compounds in the river. These tools allow us to monitor algal levels, pH, turbidity, and total organic carbon. For other contaminants that cannot be monitored continuously, like PFAS, CFPUA staff conducted daily sampling to collect data on levels before, during, and after the storm.

CFPUA asked customers with no or low water pressure to contact customer service at 910-322-6550. The utility stated it would continue to update its website with results of testing for a variety of potential pollutants.

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