WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - While discussion of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s response to Hurricane Florence may have been the first item of business at the board’s Oct. 10 meeting, the major agenda items had to do with the authority’s more long term concern about compounds in the water.
Board members voted unanimously to approve two contracts to begin further filtering drinking water in response to continued concerns about GenX and other per-and polyfluorinated compounds (PFAS).
The first, a $1,300,860 contract with Calgon Carbon, allows for the replacement of the current filter media with temporary granular activated carbon (GAC) filters at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant. Calgon has been the authority’s provider for filters for the last decade, but the technology needed to fully filter out the harmful chemicals identified over the last 18 months is beyond what experts have deemed possible with the authority’s current design. Calgon will provide, deliver and install the filter media, and then dispose of them when they are spent.
Over the next three years, the filter media will be replaced as needed.
The board also approved a $2,759,000 contract Black & Veatch International for the design of a new GAC filtration system at Sweeney. The contract has Black & Veatch working with CFPUA on the engineering, bidding, permitting and other design aspects of building new, 44 million gallons per day GAC system. The new filtration system will also require updates and modifications to the plant’s power and pumping systems.
At its Aug. 15 special meeting, the board heard updates from experts and researchers who noted the risk posed to public health by PFAS and similar compounds. It also considered the $46 million price tag the overall project is estimated at. CFPUA staff indicated a rate increase of $4 to $6 per month per customer will be needed to cover the cost of the new system, increases that would be reversed if litigation against Chemours proves fruitful.
“We share our customers' concerns about rates," said Executive Director Jim Flechtner. "And I agree that this is not an expense that our rate payers should bear, but while we go through our lawsuit with Chemours, we need to continue to move these projects forward. So it’s important for people to know that we will continue to press Chemours through the court system to get them to pay for these expenses.”
At the Oct. 10 meeting, the board also approved a measure to allow Flechtner to apply for a state grant to cover some of the costs.
The contract schedules the project to be phased over the next 12 months. The engineering phase will commence immediately and should be finished and ready to be put out for bids in July 2019.
Flechner said CFPUA will have four public meetings over the next several weeks to showcase the plan to the public and answer questions. Those meetings will be set at varying times to allow those with scheduling conflicts to attend at least one.