Sweeney Treatment Enhancements Project
Construction is set to begin in November 2019 on a project to add eight new granular activated carbon (GAC) filters to Sweeney Water Treatment Plant, which draws from the Cape Fear River and provides drinking water to about 80 percent of CFPUA's customers.
The GAC filters emerged as the best option for Sweeney to reduce GenX and other PFAS compounds in the river following an extensive pilot study that also examined reverse osmosis and ion-exchange media. Models have shown that the new GAC filters are expected to filter about 90 percent of the PFAS compounds in water sourced from the Cape Fear River.
The PFAS found in the Cape Fear result largely from decades of releases by Chemours and DuPont from their chemical plant on the Bladen-Cumberland county line, about 100 miles upriver from Wilmington.
The CFPUA Board awarded a $35.9 million contract to Adams-Robinson Enterprises Inc. for construction of the project. It is being funded through the sale of revenue bonds. This financing is expected to result in an increase of about $5 per month on the average customer’s bill.
The project is anticipated to go online in May 2020. Annual operating costs are estimated to be $2.9 million.
Until the new filters are finished, CFPUA has implemented a program to replace media in existing filters at Sweeney. Those steps have resulted in some reductions but are unsuited as a long-term solution.
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.
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.