New Hanover County to lead DEQ effort testing landfill water for PFAs

PFAs testing at Landfill

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Research and investigations into how GenX and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are getting into the Cape Fear River are ongoing, but while the focus has been on major industry, experts and officials are concerned the compounds could be entering the water system in other ways.

In an effort to find out, New Hanover County has joined with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to find out if PFAs are discharging into the Northeast Cape Fear River from the county landfill.

Landfills have unique challenges when it comes to stormwater runoff. Rain that falls at the landfill percolates down through the trash and debris, coming out the other side as “leachate” the color of black coffee. The leachate contains heavy metals, bacteria and potentially PFAs, due to the plastics and other materials deposited at the landfill.

New Hanover County uses a reverse-osmosis filter at the landfill to process the wastewater before discharging it into the river. County environmental management director Joe Suleyman said the goal is to get any and all contaminants out.

“We don’t want [contaminants] to get into our environment. We don’t want that to get into our water system. So it’s very important that a system like this treat effectively that kind of wastewater so we have a high level of confidence that what we’re discharging into the water is good, clean water,” Suleyman said.

If that filtration system removes GenX and other PFAs remains to be seen.

That’s why starting in February, DEQ will begin sampling water from every stage of the treatment process and testing it for 33 different compounds.

“We want to ensure that we’re not contributing to that, particularly in the Wilmington and New Hanover County region," said county health department director Phillip Tarte. "We know we’re down stream from drinking water opportunities, but it’s just to ensure that the PFAs is not being added to from this facility, to ensure that human health is priority.”

Results from the sampling will take about a month to come back, county officials said, and will be released to the public.

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