CFPUA board member: State needs to protect our rivers

Published: Sep. 13, 2017 at 3:15 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2017 at 9:56 PM EDT
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - After hearing about Cape Fear Public Utilities Authority's effort to rid GenX and other compounds from its water, CFPUA board member Kevin O'Grady urged the need for the state to make sure the chemicals are not getting into the drinking water source from the start.

"I liken this to having a leaky roof, and we've been asked to buy a lot of paint and plaster to fix the ceiling instead of the state fixing the roof," O'Grady said during the CFPUA board's meeting Wednesday. "It's going to happen again if we don't have good regulations. I think we as a board have to be formulating a resolution both to the legislature and the governor that they protect the rivers of this state. That's going to mean more robust regulations, more funding for the regulators so this doesn't happen again because we're trying to patch it up."

A motion was made and seconded to formulate a position to demand better regulatory funding and enforce regulations.


Executive Director Jim Flechtner addressed the board with an update on CFPUA's efforts to educate the public on GenX and to remove it and other compounds from the water.

  • Test samples are being taken from the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant three times a week. The test results are usually returned in about two weeks and posted on the CFPUA website.
  • The public is taking about 200 gallons a day from the CFPUA's free water site in Ogden Park. The water comes from a groundwater source.
  • The CFPUA entered a contractual agreement with UNCW to research water compounds in the drinking water. UNCW began this work on Sept. 1. "The ultimate goal is to identify not only the compounds that were in Dr. Knappe's report but other chemicals and other constituents in the river that we as a drinking water utility may be interested in," Flechtner said.
  • Filter media trials continue at the Sweeney Plant. "That's about a six-to-nine month process to see how effective it is and from there we can decide if it's something we want to invest in as a utility," Flechtner said. "I think that's our most promising option long-term to address the compounds."
  • Fletcher also said CFPUA's legal team is studying the partial consent order between the state and Chemours that was granted last week and how the utility has been damaged by Chemours.

The board also received an update on the aquifer storage and recovery well drainage project from Rick Catlin of Catlin Engineers and Scientists.

CFPUA is planning to remove approximately 48 million gallons of water stored in the Peedee aquifer.

While tests show that water in the aquifer well on Westbrook Avenue is below the NC Department of Health and Services' GenX health goal of 140 parts per trillion, CFPUA has said "because the water was treated and stored while Chemours was still discharging GenX into the Cape Fear River, CFPUA has decided it is in the best interest of our customers to withdraw that water from the aquifer."

A temporary pipeline is in place to carry water to the nearest wastewater force main. Two monitoring wells have also been constructed.

Catlin said he had crews out Wednesday morning collecting samples from wells. He said that 2,500 gallons have to be pumped from each well before a sample could be collected.

Crews will begin draining areas of the aquifer with higher GenX levels than the levels in the water currently in the distribution system.

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