Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Brunswick County says reverse-osmosis-treated water still on track for December 2021

After hearing an update Monday from its water consultants, Brunswick County said in a release plans to expand and upgrade the Northwest Water Treatment Plant are on track.

Brunswick County announced its $147 million water treatment upgrade and expansion plans are on track to deliver reverse osmosis-treated water by December 2021. (Port City Daily/File photo)
Brunswick County announced its $147 million water treatment upgrade and expansion plans are on track to deliver reverse osmosis-treated water by December 2021. (Port City Daily/File photo)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — Brunswick County announced the state permit required to upgrade its Northwest Water Treatment Plant is “anticipated soon.”

Reverse osmosis-treated water will be available — pending state permit approval, securing the approximately $90-to-$100 million needed for the treatment upgrade, and construction completion — in December 2021, according to a Brunswick County release Tuesday.

Related: Brunswick County says it will reapply after state denies reverse osmosis funding request

The entire project, including the 12-million-gallon-a-day treatment expansion, will be “substantially complete” in June 2022, with “final completion” in September 2022.


On Monday, Commissioners requested an update from its consultant, CDM Smith, on the progress of its work to expand and upgrade the plant.

The design phase of the project is nearing 50 percent completion, the firm told commissioners Monday. A 60 percent milestone is on-schedule to be delivered by month’s end, according to CDM Smith’s presentation.

Brunswick County hired CDM Smith for about $600,000 in January 2018 to design a water treatment upgrade at the plant. Designing the upgrade was not budgeted, and arose following the summer 2017 disclosure of GenX and other contaminants in the Cape Fear River. An expansion of the plant — which will increase its treatment capacity by 50 percent — was already planned.

After pilot testing, Commissioners approved CDM Smith’s low-pressure reverse osmosis recommendation in May 2018. CDM Smith determined the technology to be the “most efficient and cost-effective advanced water treatment” option, according to the county’s selection announcement. The announcement states Commissioners voted to “immediately construct” the reverse osmosis plant.

Behind schedule

After announcing the treatment selection last year, the county first anticipated construction beginning in June 2019. On Monday, the county announced construction will begin January 2020. Updates to the existing Northwest Water Treatment Plant system, which require a nearly 4-mile contaminant pipeline that discharges into the Cape Fear River, cannot be installed without state approval.

CDM Smith submitted its discharge permit application to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on behalf of the county in November 2018. According to the consultant’s final recommendation report last spring, submission of the state application was expected last summer.

Regulators and consultants have exchanged comments back-and-forth regarding the application in December and January. The county’s Tuesday release concludes environmental permitting requirements are “settled.” Also, according to CDM Smith’s presentation, the DEQ plans to combine all of the Northwest Water Treatment Plant’s wastes into one discharge permit.

“As construction methods and locations of proposed work become more defined, environmental permitting requirements have been settled and planning efforts to secure them have increased,” the county’s release states. “In addition, the current [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] application for the concentrate discharge continues to advance through the review process and a draft of the permit is anticipated soon.”

The release did not mention the funding status for the upgrade and expansion. However, CDM Smith’s presentation did, citing questions and responses are occurring regarding a federally-managed Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan. That loan application was formally submitted in February, according to CDM Smith’s presentation.

Brunswick County is in the midst of re-applying for state-level funding assistance. Last month, the State Water Infrastructure Authority denied its $27.7 million assistance. Failing to establish contaminant levels exceeded (GenX and other perfluorinated compounds are not yet regulated) was listed as one reason for the denial.

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