CFPUA board green lights Sweeney Treatment Plant for GenX filtration upgrades
WILMINGTON — The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) approved a resolution to authorize the completion of designs and permits for a $46-million project to upgrade filters at the city’s water treatment facility.
The decision also allows Executive Director Jim Flechtner to obtain revenue bond funding and construction bids, according to a release sent by the CFPUA Wednesday afternoon.
The project will focus on key building upgrades at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant to filter GenX and other PFAS compounds that have resulted from decades of discharges by the Chemours chemical plant located up the Cape Fear River.
“The approval of this resolution today reiterates our commitment to providing the best possible drinking water to the people who rely on it today and, just as importantly, to those who rely on it 10, 20, or 50 years down the road,” CFPUA board chairman William Norris said.
The project will add eight granular activated carbon (GAC) filters to the plant, following a pilot study that compared the use of GAC filters to reverse osmosis and ion-exchange media.
“Models have shown that the GAC filters are expected to filter about 90 percent of the PFAS compounds in water drawn from the Cape Fear River,” according to the release.
The design process is expected to be finished in June while construction bidding will begin in July and bonds will be sold in October. If the board approves a construction contract on schedule, work on the filter upgrades will begin in November “with testing and full operation sometime in early 2022,” according to the announcement.
Annual operating costs for the project are estimated at $2.9 million, resulting in an increase of approximately $5 per month to the average customer’s water bill.
Before the project is complete, CFPUA staff has implemented a program to replace media in existing filters at Sweeney — steps that “have resulted in some reductions but are unsuited as a long-term solution,” according to the release.
Wednesday’s approved resolution notes that “groundwater at the Chemours site has high levels of PFAS compounds and migrates to the Cape Fear River, and PFAS compounds have been detected in river sediment between Chemours’ site and CFPUA’s water intakes.”
It also states that PFAS compounds “continue to be in raw water at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant, despite Chemours’ assurances it no longer discharges its process wastewater to the Cape Fear River.”
“As Chemours and its predecessor DuPont are largely responsible for the PFAS compounds that continue to be found in the Cape Fear, CFPUA has filed a federal lawsuit to recover costs and damages related to the companies’ releases from their chemical plant about 100 miles upriver from Wilmington,” the release stated. “Although the outcome of this lawsuit remains uncertain, a plan under consideration would place any monetary award to CFPUA in a trust to fully or partially fund payoff of the bonds, which would allow CFPUA to reduce customers’ rates proportionately.”