Updated to include comments from an advocacy organization
After the new granular activated carbon filters went online Tuesday at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant, no per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, including GenX, was detected in the treated drinking water, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority officials announced Tuesday.
The filters treat 100% of the water at the Sweeney Plant that is distributed to customers.
The authority said it will continue to monitor PFAS levels in untreated and treated water at the Sweeney Plant, which provides drinking water to about 80% of the authority’s customers, sourcing water from the Cape Fear River.
“Five years ago, we learned Chemours and DuPont had been releasing GenX and other PFAS into the Cape Fear River, the main source of our drinking water,” CFPUA Board Chair Jennifer Adams said in a statement. “Five years ago, we came together as one community to find the best way to effectively treat PFAS for our current and future customers. Today, I am proud to tell you the treatment solution is here and working right now.”
Six of the eight deep-bed granular activated carbon filters are currently online, with a combined water treatment capacity of 33 million gallons per day, which is ample for the authority to meet current customer water demand. The remaining two filters are ready for service if needed.
The new filters at Sweeney contain almost 3 million pounds of granular activated carbon and is believed to be the largest granular activated carbon public water treatment facility in North Carolina.
Following a 2018 pilot study to evaluate potential water treatment technologies to remove PFAS, deep-bed granular activated carbon filters were selected as the best solution for the Sweeney Plant. Construction on the Sweeney treatment enhancements project began in November 2019.
Crews began loading the eight deep-bed filters with granular activated carbon media in July. Over the past several weeks, each filter has been carefully washed and rinsed and rigorously tested to ensure proper operation.
“This is the result of the combined efforts of our community, my fellow board members, our customers, the staff here at CFPUA, our City and County leadership, our elected representatives in the North Carolina General Assembly, and, of course, the consultants and contractors and their crews who worked on this project and are working now to wrap up the finishing touches,” Adams said.
North Carolina Stop GenX in our Water President Beth Markesino said the announcement that no PFAS compounds currently being detected in treated water is “an immense victory for New Hanover residents.”
“Reducing our exposure through our drinking water is a huge step in reducing PFAS in our bodies. Our neighbors upstream, Chemours, continue to pollute our water, resulting in fines by (the state Department of Environmental Quality), leaving us to not really on them to control their discharges,” she said. “We applaud CFPUA, a utility company, not a regulatory agency, for building the GAC filter to remediate the chemicals Chemours has put into our environment. It is unfortunate, however, that their ratepayers will initially have to pay for Chemours responsibility.”