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Posted on: January 16, 2019

CFPUA, scientists study options to remove PFAS from groundwater

Sampling water drawn from the ASR.

Funds for the project, which targets water from CFPUA’s Westbrook Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Well, were allocated last year by the N.C. General Assembly.

The results will guide decisions on potential technology to ensure safe drinking water for CFPUA customers and to help clean water in the PeeDee Aquifer, where the ASR is located.

They also will be shared so others may benefit from the research and will be included in a final report to state legislators later this year.

The ASR was intended to serve as an underground repository for treated drinking water from the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant.

CFPUA had begun pilot tests to inject water into the ASR before learning that undisclosed discharges of GenX and other PFAS compounds from Chemours chemical plant had affected the Cape Fear River, source of Sweeney’s raw water. Those injections stopped in June 2017.

PFAS compounds were detected in subsequent tests of the ASR well.

The work begun last week includes tests using granular activated carbon (GAC) and ion exchange (IX) media, separately and in combination, to remove PFAS from water pumped from the ASR well. Water samples will be drawn weekly to monitor the how effectively PFAS is being filtered. 

While a commercial lab is providing results on most PFAS in the water, researchers and students at the University of North Carolina Wilmington are checking levels of five previously unknown fluorochemicals and monitoring for new ones.

At the same time, CFPUA is paying to test for substances such as pharmaceuticals in the water to gauge the ability of GAC and IX to remove those as well.

Monitoring will continue for 15 weeks, after which data will be analyzed by HDR, an engineering firm under contract with CFPUA that developed the plan for the pilot tests.

 “This is the latest project undertaken by CFPUA to help us understand the challenges posed by PFAS compounds and other emerging contaminants and how we can best meet those challenges,” said Jim Flechtner, CFPUA Executive Director. “We recently completed pilot testing to study municipal water treatment options for PFAS and have ongoing collaborations with UNCW to identify PFAS compounds in the Cape Fear River and their impacts the environment.

“These projects benefit not only our customers but people in other communities who may be affected by PFAS compounds in their water. The results are shared among scientists, regulators and other utilities to help fill gaps in our understanding of this important issue.”

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