SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Cape Fear Public Utility Authority residential customers could see an 8% increase on their monthly bills starting this July, followed by another 8% uptick in 2024.
The authority board is expected to pass a budget Wednesday that would add $5.39 to the average water and sewer bill. In a statement, CFPUA attributed the rise in costs to Chemours contaminating the area’s drinking water source, the Cape Fear River, with PFAS.
CFPUA filed a lawsuit in 2017 to hold the Fayetteville Works plant accountable for its pollution of the Cape Fear River over the last three decades. The suit remains in litigation, with fact discovery planned for June, followed by mediation and plaintiff’s expert reports in July, and defendant expert reports by September. Next year, it’s scheduled to have expert discovery in February with the expected trial date to begin in fall 2023.
CFPUA customers will incur the rise in costs to fight the pollution, if the budget is passed. The proposed 2022-2023 budget totals $99.2 million, which is $7.1 million — or 7.7% – more than the current year’s $92-million budget.
More than 70% of the increase comes from treating PFAS; CFPUA will put forth over $8 million, including to operate new granular activated carbon filters that will come online this summer. The filters will reduce GenX to or near non-detection, according to CFPUA.
Other contributing factors to the rise in rates include an increase in operating costs due to inflation, salary adjustments and five new positions.
The authority is also considering equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives as part of its strategic plan. A DEI officer is being considered, who would earn $100,000 a year.
Before voting on the budget, the CFPUA board is holding a meeting for the public to speak on recommended changes. The hearing starts at 9 a.m., Wednesday, in the New Hanover County Government Center’s Lucie Harrell Conference Room, 230 Government Center Dr.
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