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Posted on: June 21, 2019

CFPUA test results show spike in PFAS levels in Cape Fear River

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The latest results from CFPUA’s weekly monitoring of water drawn from Cape Fear River for the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant indicated the highest concentration of total PFAS compounds measured since last September.

Analysis of raw water sampled June 3 showed total PFAS at 262 parts per trillion (ppt). CFPUA recently completed interim measures to help filter PFAS, which appear to be performing as expected: Levels of PFAS in finished, treated water from Sweeney during the same round of testing were 119 ppt.

As with past results, the majority of the PFAS compounds detected June 3 were those identified by regulators as originating from the Chemours chemical plant about 100 miles upriver from Wilmington.

PFAS compounds have consistently been detected in raw water from the Cape Fear, even after state regulators suspended Chemours’ privilege to discharge its wastewater in November 2017. Since then PFAS levels have fluctuated, spiking to 297 ppt in September 2018. The overall trend of raw water concentrations since permitted discharges ceased appears to be about 100 ppt.

The variability of PFAS concentrations in river water could be tied to a number of factors, including river flows. Lower river flows appear to result in higher total PFAS concentrations.

“Stopping Chemours’ permitted discharges have helped reduce PFAS in the Cape Fear River,” said CFPUA Executive Director Jim Flechtner. “But what we’ve seen in our monitoring indicates that we can expect to see PFAS in our raw water at varying concentrations for many years to come.”

In November, construction will begin on eight new deep-bed Granular Activated Carbon filters at Sweeney. That $46 million project, slated to be operational by early 2022, is expected to reduce PFAS levels by an average of 90 percent.

Paying for the new filters will add about $5 per month to the average CFPUA customer’s bill, starting in 2022.

CFPUA believes Chemours, not our customers, should be paying for the steps being taken by those affected by the company’s decades of PFAS releases. A federal civil lawsuit has been filed that seeks to force the company to step up to that responsibility.