William Norris, chairman of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority Board, has urged the Environmental Protection Agency to begin setting enforceable limits on PFAS compounds.
In a letter sent Thursday, Jan. 31, to EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Norris referenced recent reports that EPA does not intend to establish standards for PFOA and PFOS, which along with GenX have been found in drinking water sourced from the Cape Fear River.
EPA has established a drinking water health advisory for PFOA and PFOS. The advisory, for lifetime exposure, is 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for the PFOA and PFOS, either separately or in combination. The advisory is informational, not regulatory, creating significant uncertainties for regulators, utilities and the public.
“We experienced first-hand the difficulties such uncertainty can pose starting in June 2017, when representatives of the Chemours Co. told our community the company had for decades been discharging a PFAS called GenX and similar substances from its chemical plant into the Cape Fear River, source of about four-fifths of the water we treat and provide to our customers” Norris wrote.
“CFPUA is not a regulatory agency, so it cannot set enforceable limits. Instead, we and our ratepayers are left to assume the financial burden of monitoring for and filtering these compounds.”
“We believe you and EPA share our commitment to safeguarding such an irreplaceable resource as drinking water,” Norris wrote to Wheeler. “Establishing enforceable limits for PFOA and PFOS would represent a significant demonstration of that commitment.”
The New Hanover County Commissioners also sent Wheeler a letter urging standards for PFOA and PFOS.
CFPUA continuously monitors the levels of GenX, PFOA, PFOS and other PFAS compounds in water at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant, which draws from the Cape Fear River. Results in finished drinking water sampled Dec. 26 showed concentrations of GenX, PFOA and PFOS each were below 4 parts per trillion.
Later this year, the CFPUA board will consider plans for a $46 million upgrade to add additional, deeper GAC filters to Sweeney, significantly enhancing its ability to remove PFAS from drinking water.
The EPA sent a response on Feb. 19.