WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Officials with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority have lifted a do not drink alert for customers who get their water from the Richardson Nano Groundwater Treatment Plant in northern New Hanover County. The utility has now issued a boil advisory for some of the affected customers.
All of North Chase, Murrayville, Torchwood, and the surrounding areas are currently under a boil water advisory after CFPUA flushed their system due to high levels of fluoride discovered Wednesday morning.
For customers in those areas, CFPUA advises residents to boil their drinking water once service returns. Customers in other parts of CFPUA service areas are not affected and do not need to boil their water.
On Wednesday afternoon, New Hanover County Schools sent a release saying four schools — Trask Middle, Laney High, Murrayville Elementary and Eaton Elementary — will remain under a boil water advisory on Thursday. Bottle water will be used for drinking at these schools until CFPUA lifts the boil water advisory.
Do not drink alerts were lifted at Blair Elementary, College Park Elementary, Holly Shelter Middle School, Castle Hayne Elementary, Wilmington Early College, and Southeast Area Technical High School (SEA-Tech). These schools will operate as normal Thursday.
Officials say that some of the water at the plant was tested and showed elevated levels of fluoride at 8 milligrams per liter or 8 parts per million. The EPA has a maximum contaminant level in public water systems of 4 milligrams per liter or 4 parts per million
The plant was shut down while crews worked to flush out the water systems, and a CFPUA explained that the boil water advisory was in place due to the loss of water pressure while crews flushed the systems.
According to the EPA, exposure to excessive consumption of fluoride over a lifetime could lead to weak bones and children under 8 could have an increased chance of developing pits in the tooth enamel.
"This health effects language is not intended to catalog all possible health effects for fluoride," the EPA states. "Rather, it is intended to inform consumers of some of the possible health effects associated with fluoride in drinking water."
How does fluoride get into the water? The EPA says some fluoride compounds dissolve easily into groundwater and most water supplies contain some naturally occurring fluoride.
CFPUA's Director of Engineering Carel Vandermeyden said that the issue was not the result of a spill, but that equipment that fed fluoride overfed the compound into the supply.
He said that the exact cause of the elevated fluoride is still under investigation.
CFPUA's service area map can be found here. The areas in green on the northern part receive water from various groundwater sources.
In a press release, New Hanover County Schools listed the following schools that were affected by the initial do not drink alert:
- Blair Elementary School
- Eaton Elementary School
- Laney High School
- Holly Shelter Middle School
- Castle Hayne Elementary School
- Murrayville Elementary School
- College Park Elementary School
- Wilmington Early College High School
- Trask Middle School
- Southeast Area Technical High School
At Castle Hayne Elementary and Middle schools, signs were up warning children not to drink the water. Bottled water is being brought in for students.
CFPUA Board Member Pat Kusek said Wednesday that CFPUA officials responded promptly to notify its customers.
"Our emergency operations center is activated and our New Hanover County Emergency Management system worked as well, and having those systems in place, and testing them to be ready for something like this is why we do what we do," she said.