Preliminary results from North Carolina PFAST Network test of Brunswick County water treatment plant now available
Bolivia, N.C. – The North Carolina Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Testing (PFAST) Network has released preliminary results from an analysis of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds in raw water samples collected from Brunswick County’s drinking water treatment plant May 29, 2019.
Brunswick County is committed to providing all citizens with the most up-to-date, transparent and accurate information about the health and safety of our water supply, as well as developments related to the most effective treatment methods.
“In the best interest of transparency with our residents, we want to provide them the same results and information presented to us from PFAST,” County Manager Ann Hardy said.
A copy of the full preliminary report is available here: https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/NC-PFAST-Quantitative-Screening-Results-for-Raw-Drinking-Water-Brunswick-County-Drinking-Water-System.pdf
PFAS compounds are not currently regulated as drinking water contaminants by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) or the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ), therefore the measurements reported here are not intended to be used in enforcement actions.
The US EPA has established a lifetime health advisory level (HAL) of 70 ppt for combined perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in drinking water. In addition, the NC DHHS has established a provisional health goal based on risk assessment for GenX in drinking water of 140 ppt. These advisory levels can serve as reference values when evaluating PFAS concentrations reported below for raw drinking water.
Concentrations of individual PFAS are reported in units of parts-per-trillion (ppt, i.e., nanogram of chemical per liter water). The preliminary results from Brunswick County’s May 29 sample are as follows:
- The sum of PFOA and PFOS was 19 ppt. This represents 27.1 percent of the EPA health advisory level (HAL) of 70 ppt for PFOA + PFOS.
- The concentration of GenX was 28.1 ppt. This represents 20.1 percent of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services health goal for GenX.
- The total PFAS concentration was 395.4 ppt.
Based on these results, the Brunswick County water sample is still below the EPA’s health advisory level for PFOA + PFOS and the State’s DHHS health goal for GenX.
According to PFAST, the initial chemical analysis shows higher levels of PFAS compounds in the Brunswick County water sample compared to typical background PFAS concentrations observed in drinking water sources. The compound PFMOAA is the most present in the May 29 sample, contributing the majority of the total PFAS concentration test result.
At this time, the EPA does not have sufficient information to calculate an established health goal for some PFAS like the PFMOAA compound. The County’s Public Utilities team continues to monitor PFAS like PFMOAA, GenX and more through regular testing.
What We Are Doing to Protect Our Water
Providing safe, reliable and affordable water service to our communities is one of the top priorities for Brunswick County’s Board of Commissioners and administrators. Since 2010, the County’s leaders have worked extensively on upgrading and expanding capacity at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant, including the development of a low-pressure reverse osmosis treatment system.
The first phase was completed in 2010, the second phase was completed in 2015, and the third and final phase that will increase treatment capacity is currently in the final design phase. The discovery of perfluoroalkyl substances in the Cape Fear River in June 2017 led to the incorporation of advanced low pressure reverse osmosis (LPRO) system into the design plans. Brunswick County will be able to provide a better quality product that addresses water quality issues in the Cape Fear River both now and in the years to come with the LPRO facility.
“Reverse osmosis is considered the most efficient and effective processes to purify drinking water and treat it for both regulated and unregulated chemicals and other particles present in the water,” Hardy said. “The new purification system is an important step in achieving our goal of consistently staying below the EPA and state’s preferred health levels for PFAS and improve our future results.”
As of August 2019, the design for the treatment plant and new concentrate pipeline is 90 percent complete, which is now enough to begin initiating for permits at the county, state and federal level. Public bidding for the project will take place before the end of this year. Construction is anticipated to begin in January 2020 and take less than three years to complete.
The Board of Commissioners also unanimously approved a resolution stating the County’s position to provide potable water and wastewater services to the customers of Brunswick County via advanced water treatment through a low-pressure reverse osmosis system at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant during a specially called meeting on July 23, 2019.
Moving forward, the North Carolina PFAST Network recommends additional PFAS testing of both the County’s raw water and finished drinking water to further verify these results. Brunswick County’s Public Utilities also routinely tests the County’s system for water quality and the presence of GenX, 1,4 dioxane, PFMOAA and other PFAS chemicals.
More information about the County’s efforts on water testing, the Northwest Water Treatment Plant upgrades and the reverse osmosis system is at https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/genx/
The North Carolina Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Testing (PFAST) Network is a statewide research collaboration to test for current levels of PFAS chemicals in drinking water and air samples across the state.
These initial results have been verified through repeat analysis in the laboratory of Dr. Lee Ferguson at Duke University and through independent testing by Dr. Detlef Knappe at North Carolina State University, but the measurements presented here should be viewed as preliminary.
This analysis was part of a PFAS testing initiative mandated by the North Carolina General Assembly through Session Law (S.L.) 2018-5 (Section 13.1 through I).
What are PFAS?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. The PFAS found in this sample belong to the PFAS compound class called Perfluoroalkylether Acids (PFEAs) which includes GenX and other similar PFAS. More information about PFAS is on the EPA’s website at https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas
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