Like many of our peers at water utilities across the country, CFPUA staff have been monitoring the situation in Jackson, Mississippi. Last week, the main water treatment plant serving Jackson’s 150,000 residents failed after being inundated by major flooding.
Emergencies such as this are a reminder of the importance of sustained funding for rehabilitation and replacement (R&R) of critical water infrastructure. CFPUA’s recently released Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) includes $512 million in infrastructure investments through Fiscal Year 2032. Of those planned projects, 82 percent are focused on improvements to aging infrastructure, with another 16 percent dedicated to growth.
These planned investments in our community’s water and wastewater systems follow years of steady, consistent focus on R&R to make these systems more reliable and resilient:
Total CIP (million)
CFPUA maintains approximately $1 billion in water and sewer infrastructure across Wilmington and New Hanover County. Our community’s capital assets include two water treatment plants, a network of groundwater wells, two wastewater treatment plants, over 150 sewer pump stations, and more than 1,000 miles each of water and sewer mains.
Each day, CFPUA’s systems provide water and sewer services to 200,000 people.
“Addressing aging infrastructure was one of the reasons local leaders moved to create CFPUA in 2008,” Deputy Executive Director for Treatment and Engineering Carel Vandermeyden said.
“When CFPUA opened, we inherited water and sewer infrastructure from the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County that was, in some places, anywhere from 50 years to nearly a century old. In the past 14 years, we’ve made huge progress in repairing, replacing, and strengthening infrastructure throughout our service area.”
R&R of sewer infrastructure has been a priority for CFPUA, and those efforts have led to significant reductions in Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs).
In the five years before CFPUA was established, the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County responded to 156 SSOs resulting in a total of 11,240,995 gallons of untreated wastewater escaping. Between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2022, the most recent five years of CFPUA operations, staff responded to 59 SSOs totaling 2,639,685 gallons, a 77 percent reduction in spill volume.
On the drinking water side, CFPUA partnered with Brunswick County and the Lower Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority to construct an additional raw water transmission main for our region, which was completed earlier this year. CFPUA’s FY 2023 Capital Improvement Plan includes an additional $4.2 million to the $8.1 million previously approved to replace an aging portion of the Twin 24-inch Raw Water Transmission Mains that convey water from the Cape Fear River to the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant.
CFPUA has also made significant investments in disaster preparedness. During Hurricane Florence in 2018, water and sewer services continued uninterrupted for all but a small portion of CFPUA customers despite days of flooding across our service area. Following Florence, CFPUA further increased resiliency at key facilities with additional generators and the purchase of a fuel truck to help ensure a continuous power supply during and after severe weather.
CFPUA crews performing sewer maintenance in 2021. CFPUA’s Find It, Fix It program leverages state grants and other funding sources to repair and rehabilitate water and sewer lines with a history of maintenance issues. In 2021, CFPUA completed more than $12.5 million worth of Find It, Fix It repairs.