Northwest Water Treatment Plant Expansion & Reverse Osmosis Treatment Upgrades

Northwest Water Treatment Plant Expansion & Reverse Osmosis Treatment Upgrades

Project Timeline

What We’re Doing

This project is the last phase of a three-phase project that will install an advanced low-pressure reverse osmosis water treatment system at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant. Low-pressure reverse osmosis is considered the most advanced and effective method to treat and remove both regulated and unregulated materials from drinking water, including GenX, 1,4-dioxane and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The project will also expand the conventional treatment facility from 24 million gallons per day to 45 million gallons per day and will provide a low-pressure reverse osmosis treatment capacity of no less than 36 million gallons per day (MGD).

Phases one and two were completed in 2010 and 2015, respectively. The County re-evaluated the third phase of the project after the discovery of PFAS substances in the Cape Fear River in June 2017. The Commissioners selected engineering and consulting firm CDM Smith in January 2018 to evaluate advanced water treatment options for the Northwest Water Treatment Plant to eliminate these substances. CDM Smith conducted a pilot low-pressure reverse osmosis testing program at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant. In April 2018, CDM Smith’s reported that the pilot low-pressure reverse osmosis system reduced most PFAs to undetectable levels.

The Local Government Commission approved the Northwest Water Treatment Plant project’s financing at its May 5, 2020 meeting and revenue bonds were issued June 4, 2020 with ratings received from Standard & Poor’s (AA-) and Moody’s (Aa3) have been affirmed and assigned. The Board also unanimously approved a $6,595,000 construction contract with T. A. Loving Company for the construction of the Northwest Water Treatment Plant Concentrate Discharge Pipeline, which will carry discharge from the plant to the Cape Fear River.

Brunswick County is financing the project in order to remove PFAS with the best treatment technology available to do so, however it has joined other utilities in the region to sue DuPont and Chemours. The County is seeking monetary damages from Chemours to hold it responsible for the millions of dollars it is spending to install a new treatment system necessary to remove PFAS contaminants. The lawsuit remains active and ongoing.

Anticipated Milestones

  • Project Design: Completed Fall 2019
  • Construction: Began June 2020; currently ongoing
  • Anticipated Completion of Conventional Treatment Expansion: June 2022
  • Anticipated Beneficial Use of Low-Pressure Reverse Osmosis Treatment System: June 2023
  • Anticipated Project Completion Date: December 2023

Benefits of the Project

  • The integration of an advanced low-pressure reverse osmosis water treatment equipment to treat and remove both regulated and unregulated materials from drinking water, including GenX, 1,4-dioxane and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
  • Expanding the conventional treatment facility from 24 million gallons per day to 45 million gallons per day and will provide a low-pressure reverse osmosis treatment capacity of no less than 36 million gallons per day (MGD)

Budget & Funding

Funding Source: Revenue bonds

Total Project budget: $167.3 million

  • Expansion and Reverse Osmosis Contract Amount: $122.6 million
  • Concentrate Discharge Pipeline Contract Amount: $6.6 million

Project expenditures to date: $44.3 million

Latest Project Updates

20% Percent Complete (as of April 2021)

Two of the four existing clarifier basins, which were taken out of service during the winter, have been renovated and returned to service. Piping and foundation work for new filters is progressing. Installation of a new pipeline to convey more raw water to the plant is underway. Excavation and subgrade preparation for a new gravity sludge thickener tank (to process waste products from the conventional water treatment process) is also in progress.

Latest Project Updates

20% Percent Complete (as of April 2021)

Two of the four existing clarifier basins, which were taken out of service during the winter, have been renovated and returned to service. Piping and foundation work for new filters is progressing. Installation of a new pipeline to convey more raw water to the plant is underway. Excavation and subgrade preparation for a new gravity sludge thickener tank (to process waste products from the conventional water treatment process) is also in progress.

Latest Project Updates

20% Percent Complete (as of April 2021)

Two of the four existing clarifier basins, which were taken out of service during the winter, have been renovated and returned to service. Piping and foundation work for new filters is progressing. Installation of a new pipeline to convey more raw water to the plant is underway. Excavation and subgrade preparation for a new gravity sludge thickener tank (to process waste products from the conventional water treatment process) is also in progress.

Latest Project Updates

20% Percent Complete (as of April 2021)

Two of the four existing clarifier basins, which were taken out of service during the winter, have been renovated and returned to service. Piping and foundation work for new filters is progressing. Installation of a new pipeline to convey more raw water to the plant is underway. Excavation and subgrade preparation for a new gravity sludge thickener tank (to process waste products from the conventional water treatment process) is also in progress.

Troubled Waters: The Fight Against PFAS

A documentary short from CDM Smith, the team of consultants working on Brunswick County’s low-pressure reverse osmosis treatment system to address new and emerging compounds.

Project Managers and Contractors

Project Managers and Contractors

Project Managers

Bob Tweedy / Senior Utilities Manager – CIP/Infrastructure / Public Utilities

John Nichols / Director / Public Utilities

Project Designer

CDM Smith

Project Contractor

Oscar Renda Construction

FAQs About the Project

FAQs About the Project

Updated as of April 15, 2021

  1. What is the project at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant going to accomplish?
    • This three-phase project will expand the plant’s water treatment capacity from 24 million gallons per day (MGD) to 45 million gallons per day that will provide a low-pressure reverse osmosis treatment capacity of no less than 36 million gallons per day (MGD) to support the projected increase of residential, commercial, and industrial water use in the county.
    • It will feature an advanced low-pressure reverse osmosis water treatment system, which is considered one of the most advanced and effective methods to treat and remove both regulated and unregulated materials from drinking water, including GenX, 1,4-dioxane and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
  2. Why do we need more capacity at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant?
    • With a population nearing 135,000 residents and growing, Brunswick County is expanding its capacity at the plant to provide an adequate and reliable supply of water to support all of Brunswick County’s residential, commercial, and industrial needs both now and in the future.
  3. What else is the County doing about PFAS and GenX?
    • Brunswick County Public Utilities conducts routine water tests of our raw and treated water from the Northwest Water Treatment Plant.
    • Brunswick County’s treated drinking water remains under the threshold for the EPA’s federal health levels for PFAS, PFOA, and GenX.
    • All water test results are published on the County’s website
    • The EPA does not currently have health levels set for other PFAS, such as PFMOAA. The County routinely monitors and tests for other known contaminants in the PFAS family.
    • In April 2018, the County conducted two rounds of testing on a pilot low-pressure reverse osmosis system at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant. The results showed that low-pressure reverse osmosis reduced most PFAS including GenX to undetectable levels, essentially removing all the components.
  4. When will the expansion and upgrades project at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant finish?
    • The estimated date of beneficial use of the first five low-pressure reverse osmosis units is June 2023. Three more units (No. 6-8) are expected to be ready for eligible use in August 2023. The final acceptance of all work (including the expansion project) is expected to finish in November 2023.
  5. How much will the project cost?
    • The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a $129.1 million project to expand the water treatment capacity and install an advanced low-pressure reverse osmosis water treatment system at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant at its May 20, 2020 meeting. The Board also unanimously approved a $6,595,000 construction contract with T. A. Loving Company for the construction of the Northwest Water Treatment Plant Concentrate Discharge Pipeline.
  6. When will the project start?
    • Work is now under way on the project. The notice to construct the expansion and upgrades project was issued June 5 to Oscar Renda Contracting, Inc.

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