CFPUA serves over 200,000 people in New Hanover County. Homes and businesses in our service area are affected by the damages caused by PFAS contamination downstream of Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility. CFPUA staff has reviewed the proposed consent order released last Wednesday by NCDEQ, and we have started to compile our technical and legal comments for submission.
While the proposed order addresses Chemours’ ongoing PFAS releases and immediate health concerns for communities in Bladen County in the vicinity of the Fayetteville Works facility, the order does not resolve the problem of PFAS contamination in drinking water supplies for New Hanover County.
CFPUA will require more time to draft its full legal and technical opinion, but we would like to immediately share a few of our concerns with the proposed document.
As currently written, the proposed order fails to provide a solution for the citizens of New Hanover County who continue to be exposed to PFAS compounds at levels higher than 10 parts per trillion, individually, and 70 parts per trillion combined.
CFPUA has monitored PFAS levels at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant since June 2017. Our most recent test results show levels of PFAS, both those with and without testing standards, at a combined level of 330 parts per trillion. Several individual compounds were estimated to be at levels above 10 parts per trillion. GenX has been regularly detected at levels above 10 parts per trillion.
Under the proposed order, private well users with levels such as those mentioned above would be offered under the sink reverse osmosis systems at no cost. However, funding for additional water treatment will not be offered under the order to residents who receive water from the Cape Fear River.
Drinking water quality, whether the water is sourced from groundwater or surface water, should be consistent for all users.
As currently written, the proposed order does not address river sediment contamination, nor does it suggest possible remediation solutions.
Scientists at UNCW have detected PFAS compounds in the sediment of the Cape Fear River. It is possible that the sediment will act as a continuing source of PFAS compounds in the water of the Cape Fear River, even after Chemours installs new control technology at its plant. That contamination may continue to affect the drinking water for New Hanover County until additional treatment technology can be installed at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant.
As currently written, the proposed order does not address damages to groundwater in New Hanover County through the contamination of the Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) site.
CFPUA has invested millions of dollars into the ASR site, which was designed to supplement our water supply during periods of high demand. The ASR site was contaminated with PFAS compounds from the Cape Fear River and is no longer viable for its original purpose.
CFPUA has been communicating our concerns regarding PFAS to NCDEQ and NCDHHS. While we have received prompt responses from NCDHHS, we have yet to receive a response to our most recent request from Secretary Michael Regan at North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. We continue to require guidance from state regulatory agencies to ensure we are fully protecting public health.
The decades-long discharge of PFAS compounds by Chemours has created significant environmental contamination—in the air, in the Cape Fear River, in the sediment, and in groundwater. On February 14, 2018, the CFPUA Board passed a resolution requesting NCDEQ to stop all operations at the Chemours site involving emerging contaminants. CFPUA believes this should happen until Chemours has installed technology at the site that will capture air emissions and until we fully understand how PFAS compounds find their way into our water source.
CFPUA does not believe the draft consent order will affect our ongoing lawsuit against Chemours and Dupont. Ratepayers should not bear the cost of additional treatment associated with PFAS and we will continue to pursue legal action.