Frequently Asked Questions
Here we provide answers to frequently asked questions regarding water and other services provided by Public Utilities in Brunswick County.
Click a tab below for answers to frequently asked questions
Can I flush disposable wipes?
No, disposable wipes, rags, clothing articles, and paper towels should not be flushed because these combine with fats, oils, greases, and other debris to cause major clogs within the wastewater collection system and treatment facilities. The fibers contained within most “flush-able” wipes are not biodegradable. Also, if your house has a low pressure grinder pump, the pump may become damaged and the property owner could be responsible for the costs of repair. Please see the Grinder Pump informational brochure which discusses the use and maintenance of grinder pump systems: https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/files/utilities/2015/02/util_grinder_brochure.pdf
A briefing regarding legislation in the District of Columbia regarding flushable wipes provides additional insights into the issue: https://www.ncsafewater.org/news/news.asp?id=384224
How long will it take for my new grinder pump to be installed after I have applied for one?
It may take three to six weeks depending on the type of grinder system installation. If a sewer tap needs to be made for connection to the low-pressure sewer system within a NC DOT area, an encroachment application must be submitted by Brunswick County to the State, which can extend wait time to up to three months. Prior to the contractor/homeowner applying for pressure sewer service, siding must be installed, underground power must be installed to the structure, and final land grade must be established. If any of the above steps are not completed prior to service request, the timeline for installation will be regenerated. After the basin is set, an additional request by contractor/homeowner is required at completion of customer side electrical and plumbing installation. This is referred to as start-up, allowing County staff to inspect customer side connections with the pump being tested, ensuring the system operates as intended.
I am having work done on my home and need to locate my sewer line. How can that be done?
All Brunswick Counties locates can be requested through the NC 811 ULOCO system. You can call 811 and request that all utilities located at the service address be located by the appropriate utility owner. A standard locate may take up to 3 business days, and emergency locates will be taken care of as soon as possible. Please note that any water or sewer connections beyond the water meter box, gravity sewer clean out, or County owned grinder station are owned and maintained by the property owner and will not be located or maintained by Brunswick County Utility Staff.
What can I do to prevent sewer overflows?
Sewer overflows on a grinder system are typically caused by a pump failure. When your alarm goes off, please call one of our emergency numbers and refrain from heavy water usage, i.e. washing machine, dishwasher, showers and baths. Another thing that will ensure your pump operates properly is by not putting prohibited items into the sewage system, i.e. wet wipes, grease, and feminine hygiene products. These items shorten the lifespan of your pump and may cause a sewer overflow. It is not suggested to shut down the breaker. Silencing the alarm is all that is necessary until staff arrives for repair.
What do I do if the alarm on my grinder pump sounds?
We ask the homeowner to silence the alarm if they can, it is not necessary or recommended to turn off the breaker to the grinder pump. Please call in to our maintenance line (910) 253-2657. On the grinder pump control panel, there is an information sticker with our after-hours phone numbers as well.
What is a smoke test?
Smoke testing is the process of injecting artificially produced smoke into a blocked off pipeline segment to see where the smoke emerges. If the line is in good condition, the smoke will emerge from manhole lids along the line. If there are any cracks or defects within the line, the smoke will come from those. It is not unusual to see some smoke come up through cracks in the pavement or in residential yards during testing. It is also not unusual for smoke to come out of the plumbing vent pipe above your roof.
What is the purpose of smoke testing?
To ensure the sanitary sewer system is in good working order, it is important to locate and repair any breaks in the lines to prevent larger problems in the future. Smoke testing is one of the best, cost-effective ways to locate defects in main sewer lines and service laterals that connect to residences.
Should I do anything to prepare?
To prevent the possibility of smoke entering your home, ensure water has been run in your sinks and showers/tubs to put water in your P-traps. This acts as a blockage to keep smoke from coming out of the drains in your home.
Could smoke enter my home?
Very unlikely; however, if there is a P-trap that is not holding water, or if additional lines within the home are un-trapped or defective, it may. In this case, you may want to contact a plumber to investigate.
Remember: If smoke can enter your home through your plumbing connection, potentially harmful sewer gases may also.
Do I have to be home when smoke testing is being performed?
Homeowners do not need to be home and at no time will our field crew members enter a home.
Will the Coronavirus affect my drinking water?
Brunswick County’s two drinking water treatment plants are designed to filter and kill all kinds of viruses including COVID-19 the Coronavirus. The EPA mandated through the Safe Drinking Water Act that all drinking water treatment facilities designed and built in the United States be able to inactivate viruses and bacteria. The disinfection process of using chlorine is very effective at inactivating (killing) viruses. The World Health Organization has recently published a technical document describing the Coronavirus as having a “fragile outer membrane” that is generally less stable and more susceptible to oxidants such as chlorine (page 2 of document).
More information regarding COVID-19 and drinking water can be found here:
What do I do if my water is running brown/murky?
This can be caused by many factors within the home plumbing system and/or public distribution system. This discoloration is not a health risk. Run your tap for fifteen to twenty minutes, and if the problem persists, please call us at (910) 253-2657.
The possible causes are:
Flushing: Piping in the distribution system leading to your home may be rusty or have loose sediment, creating rusty-brown/murky water when disturbed. When valves in the public system are operated (opened or closed) rust and sediment can be dislodged. The operation of fire hydrants, flushing or routine maintenance in your area, and rust can also cause discoloration in the water.
Water heaters and galvanized or iron plumbing: If you are having trouble and your neighbors are not, then your home plumbing or water heater may be the issue. Some common characteristics of a corrosion problem in your home plumbing include:
- The discoloration is only in the hot water
- The water is discolored every morning or when first used after several hours of disuse
- The water clears after it has run for a few minutes
- The discoloration is only at one or several faucets in your home, not all of them
When it comes to leaks, what is my responsibility and what is the county’s responsibility?
Brunswick County is responsible for the service line from the water main at the street to the back side of the meter box, the tie in point where the plumber/homeowner makes the connection. Please note that if the homeowner requests a service call for a leak and it is found to be on the customers side, the County is not responsible for the repair. Furthermore, a fee for the site visit will be issued to the party responsible for the account. If the problem IS found on the County side, the repair will be made with no charge to the customer.
How can I get my water tested?
Your local health department should assist in explaining any tests that you need for various contaminants. If your local health dept. is unable to help, you can contact a state certified laboratory to perform the test. To find a state certified laboratory in your area call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 or visit https://slphreporting.dph.ncdhhs.gov/Certification/CertifiedLaboratory.asp
What is causing this water shortage?
The water conservation alert is due to drier, potentially drought like conditions these past few weeks, coupled with increasing use of the County’s water system capacity—likely due to increasing irrigation and other water needs. Brunswick County last had a Stage 1 Water Conservation Alert in Summer 2019. Summer 2020 was much wetter than usual, which led to less lawn irrigation and helped to avoid conservation alerts and the COVID-19 mandates led to lower peak demands.
How long is the stage 1 conservation effort expected to last?
Conservation efforts and any additional actions will be determined on the projected weather forecasts this summer and overall water usage throughout the system. We are anticipating a much drier summer than we had in 2020 coupled with a return to more activities as the COVID-19 pandemic lessens that are likely to increase peak demands. Brunswick County had already issued a reminder for customers to use water wisely, especially during the Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day weekends. Taking steps listed in the alert like avoiding overwatering lawns, using the recommended irrigation schedule, and deferring non-essential water to nightfall and avoiding that 5-11 a.m. block will be especially helpful to reducing demand.
Are residents in danger of running out of water?
Excessive demands typically manifest themselves in the form of low pressure, not the complete absence of water. There is sufficient capacity for all necessary potable water needs. Irrigation is what drives the water system production to levels near the system capacity and that can be controlled. Alerts are issued based on what percent of the water system’s water production capacity is being used. Implementing a Stage 1 Conservation Alert now allows for sufficient time, prior to the Memorial Day holiday and higher temperatures, to reduce demands to manageable levels. Whether or demand levels reach thresholds to trigger a Stage 2 or Stage 3 Conservation Alert depends on customers’ conservation efforts, weather, and the available raw water supply coming from the LCFWSA’s Kings Bluff Water Pump Station for the Northwest Water Treatment Plant.
What triggers the need for water conservation and what are the stages?
Weather forecasts, historical peaks, system reliability, river levels, and the capacity of the raw water system are all considered in context with the system demand when determining if the next stage of a conservation alert should be triggered. However, in general, a Stage 2 alert may be declared when there are consecutive days over 90% of capacity. Measures to achieve the overall reduction in usage will include implementation of irrigation restrictions, ban on non-commercial car washing, restaurant restrictions, and public education on the water shortage.
STAGE 1 – WATER CONSERVATION ALERT
A Stage 1 water shortage emergency may be declared in the event of an immediate water shortage, as so declared by state and/or local officials, or when there are three (3) consecutive days when water demand exceeds eighty percent (80%) of the total water plant production capacity. Water production capacity shall be defined as the maximum volume of water that meets or exceeds state and federal standards that the water treatment plant process can produce during a twenty-four (24) hour period. Water production capacity can vary depending on system component reliability and/or raw water conditions or availability.
Under a Stage 1 Water Conservation Alert, the County will implement measures intended to reduce water used for irrigation by ten percent (10%). The County will also notify its wholesale water customers that they must reduce irrigation demand in their systems by ten percent (10%) in accordance with the wholesale water agreement. The targeted customer groups shall be customers with irrigation meters, wholesale water customers, and multi-family projects with common area irrigation.
STAGE 2 – WATER SHORTAGE WARNING
A Stage 2 water shortage emergency may be declared in the event of an immediate water shortage, as so declared by state and/or local officials, or when there are two (2) consecutive days when water demand exceeds ninety percent (90%) of the water production capacity. Water production capacity shall be defined as the maximum volume of water that meets or exceeds state and federal standards that the water treatment process can produce during a twenty-four (24) hour period. Water production capacity can vary depending on system component reliability and/or raw water conditions or availability.
Under a Stage 2 Water Shortage Warning, the County will implement measures to reduce overall water use by ten percent (10%). The County will also notify its wholesale customers that they must reduce their overall water use by ten percent (10%) in accordance with the wholesale water agreement. The target groups will be all County retail water customers, wholesale water customers, and industrial customers. Measures to achieve the overall reduction in usage will include implementation of irrigation restrictions, ban on non-commercial car washing, restaurant restrictions, and public education on the water shortage.
STAGE 3 – WATER SHORTAGE DANGER
A Stage 3 water shortage emergency may be declared in the event of an immediate water shortage, as so declared by state and/or local officials, or when there is one (1) day when water demand exceeds one hundred percent (100%) of the water production capacity. Water production capacity shall be defined as the maximum volume of water that meets or exceeds state and federal standards that the water treatment process can produce during a twenty-four (24) hour period. Water production capacity can vary depending on system component reliability and/or raw water conditions.
Under a Stage 3 Water Shortage Danger, the County will implement measures to reduce overall water use by twenty percent (20%). The County will also notify its wholesale customers that they must reduce their overall water use by twenty percent (20%) in accordance with the wholesale water agreement. The target groups will be all County retail water customers, wholesale water customers, and industrial customers. Measures to achieve the overall reduction in usage will include implementation of a ban on outdoor irrigation, ban on car washing, restaurant restrictions, restrictions on industrial usage, and public education on the water shortage.
Has the increased growth in Brunswick County created water shortage issues?
We often hear a lot about the amount of growth and development coming to Brunswick County; one key point to remember is that the bulk of the development that is currently in the planning and design stages will not be put online until after the water treatment plant is expanded. The primary factor influencing the high summer peak demands is the water usage due to irrigation which can be managed to an extent with public education. Taking steps listed in the alert such as avoiding overwatering lawns, using the recommended irrigation schedule, and deferring non-essential water to nightfall and avoiding that 5-11 a.m. block will be especially helpful to reducing demand.
Water Treatment Upgrades and Rates
Brunswick County Water Treatment Upgrades and Rate Questions
Last Updated: July 2022
What is Brunswick County doing to remove PFAS contaminates from drinking water?
Brunswick County has actively sought a solution to remove PFAS from drinking water after the discovery of PFAS substances in the Cape Fear River in June 2017. Following review of multiple treatment options, the County selected low-pressure reverse osmosis and initiated a pilot scale system at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant to confirm water quality and PFAS removal. In April 2018, CDM Smith’s reported that the pilot low-pressure reverse osmosis system reduced most PFAs to undetectable levels including PFOA, PFOS and GenX.
The team proceeded with design and the project went out to bid in Winter 2019. The County anticipates the low-pressure reverse osmosis system will go online in summer or fall of 2023, with final completion in early 2024. Individuals can follow the project at brunswickcountync.gov/nwtp.
NC government agencies are also working on all fronts to continue to reduce exposures to GenX and other PFAS. This includes continuing efforts to reduce emissions and discharges from the Chemours plant and efforts to reduce GenX and other PFAS as much as possible in drinking water. The NC Department of Environmental Quality’s PFAS Roadmap details NCDEQ’s priorities and planned actions to reduce PFAS in our state. The US EPA’s PFAS Roadmap details national policies, priorities, and actions planned for the next five years.
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).
What customers will receive reverse osmosis-treated water once the new low-pressure reverse osmosis treatment system at the Northwest Water Treatment System goes online?
All of Brunswick County’s water customers and wholesale water customers* receive either all or part of their water from the Northwest Water Treatment Plant. Within the Southport, St. James, Oak Island, and Caswell Beach areas, water from the Northwest Water Treatment is blended with water from the Highway 211 Water Treatment Plant to serve customers. The Highway 211 Water Treatment Plant sources its water from groundwater wells. Bald Head Island has its own treatment plant, but supplementary water is supplied by the 211 Water Treatment Plant, or blended water from both county plants. All other customers in the County receive their water solely from the Northwest Water Treatment Plant.
*As of June 2022, Brunswick County’s current wholesale customers include Bald Head Island, Holden Beach, Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer (H2Go), Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Shallotte, and Southport.
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. More than 300,000 people are served by Brunswick County Public Utilities during the peak season (summer), including both county and wholesale customer service areas.
Why isn’t Chemours and/or DuPont paying for the reverse osmosis treatment system?
In 2017, Brunswick County 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. Any proceeds received will be used for the benefit of all customer classes. How any proceeds from litigation would be used has not been analyzed nor determined at this time.
Are water rates paying for the reverse osmosis and expansion at the plant?
Brunswick County is absorbing some of the costs for the Northwest Water Treatment Plant infrastructure enhancements—therefore all the project costs are not directly passed on through water rates. However, the County had to start making anticipated debt service repayments in 2022 for the installation of the reverse osmosis treatment system to remove unregulated PFAS contaminants like GenX from our water and to construct a new raw water line to increase capacity to the plant.
How do County retail customer bills compare with retail bills of utilities of similar size in North Carolina?
Under the current rate structure, the estimated bill is $34.68 for someone using 4,500 gallons (or $36.75 for 5,000 gallons). This does not include irrigation. This is well below the average bill of other North Carolina coastal communities of $41.04 (4,500 gallons) and the NC state median of $38.45 (5,000 gallons).
What is the estimated monthly cost for a county retail customer with a 3/4-inch meter?
For a retail county customer, the estimated monthly cost for someone using 4,500 gallons per month (average user) is $34.68. This does not include irrigation. Customers can view the County’s latest water and sewer rate schedule at brunswickcountync.gov/rates
PFAS General Questions
Last Updated: July 2022
What is PFAS?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s. These chemicals are used to make products to resist stains, grease, and water. The most studied PFAS are perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA or C8) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS).
Common Uses of PFAS:
• Stain resistant carpet and clothing
• Non-stick cookware
• Firefighting foam
• Food packaging
PFAS do not occur naturally but are widespread in the environment. PFAS can be found in the environment near areas where they are manufactured or where products containing PFAS are often used. PFAS are found in people, wildlife, and fish all over the world. Most PFAS do not break down easily in the environment. Some PFAS can stay in people’s bodies a long time.
There are currently four per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that have health advisory levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and PFBS.
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) has been a manufactured perfluorochemical and a byproduct in producing fluoropolymers. Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. PFOA was used particularly for manufacturing polytetrafluoroethylene, but since 2002, manufacturers have used a new process not requiring this chemical. PFOA persists in the environment and does not break down. PFOA has been identified in bodies of water and in a variety of land and water animals.
Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) is a synthetic, fully fluorinated organic acid; it is used in a variety of consumer products and is generated as a degradation product of other perfluorinated compounds. Because of strong carbon-fluorine bonds, PFOS is stable to metabolic and environmental degradation. PFOS is one of a large group of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) that are used to make products more resistant to stains, grease, and water. These compounds have been widely found in consumer and industrial products, as well as in food items. Water resources contaminated by PFOS have been associated with releases from manufacturing sites, industrial sites, fire/crash training areas, and industrial or municipal waste sites where products are disposed of or applied.
GenX is a trade name for a man‐made and unregulated chemical used in manufacturing nonstick coatings and for other purposes. Chemours’ facility in Fayetteville began producing GenX commercially in 2009 as a replacement for PFOA. The same chemical is also produced as a byproduct during other manufacturing processes, and it may have been present in the environment for many years before being produced commercially as GenX.
PFBS is a replacement chemical for PFOS, a chemical that was voluntarily phased out by the primary U.S. manufacturer by 2002. PFBS has been identified in the environment and consumer products, including surface water, wastewater, drinking water, dust, carpeting and carpet cleaners, and floor wax.
What are the health advisory levels for PFAS compounds?
On June 15, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced interim and final health advisory levels for four per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in public drinking water systems and wells across country and the state. These are the only health advisory levels established by the EPA at this time for PFAS compounds:
• Interim updated Health Advisory for PFOA = 0.004 parts per trillion (ppt) with a minimum reporting level of 4 ppt
• Interim updated Health Advisory for PFOS = 0.02 ppt with a minimum reporting level of 4 ppt
• Final Health Advisory for GenX chemicals (HFPO-DA) = 10 ppt
• Final Health Advisory for PFBS = 2,000 ppt
Health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory levels that provide information on contaminants that can cause human health effects and are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water.
While unenforceable, these advisories indicate the level of drinking water contamination below which adverse health effects are not expected to occur. Health advisories provide technical information that federal, state, and local officials can use to inform the development of monitoring plans, investments in treatment solutions, and future policies to protect the public from PFAS exposure.
What is the difference between an interim and final health advisory level?
According to the EPA, the agency issues an interim health advisory when a contaminant’s associated health effects assessment is in draft form, but there is a pressing need to provide information to public health officials prior to finalization of the health effects assessment. The PFOA and PFOS interim health advisories are intended to be in place during the time interval between initial understanding of health effects and publication of the final health advisory, maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG), and/or maximum contaminant level (MCL). Final health advisories are based on final health effects assessments.
Will EPA release an enforceable regulation for GenX in drinking water?
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA has the authority to set enforceable National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for drinking water contaminants and require monitoring of public water systems.
According to the EPA PFAS Strategic Roadmap, the agency plans to establish a national primary drinking water regulation for PFOA and PFOS that would set enforceable limits and require monitoring of public water supplies, while evaluating additional PFAS and groups of PFAS. The EPA Science Advisory Board consultation is ongoing; with a proposed rule expected in fall 2022 and a final rule expected in fall 2023.
How do I know if my drinking water contains PFAS?
Brunswick County Public Utilities Water Customers and Wholesale* Municipal/Utility Water Customers
PFAS contamination is present throughout North Carolina. NCDEQ and NCDHHS began investigating the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear River in June 2017. The Chemours facility in Fayetteville was identified as the company that produces the GenX chemical for industrial processes.
Brunswick County conducts weekly tests of its raw and treated water for several PFAS compounds, including the four with interim or final EPA health advisory levels (PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and PFBS). Test results are published on the County’s website for transparency.
*As of June 2022, Brunswick County’s current wholesale customers include Bald Head Island, Holden Beach, Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer (H2Go), Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Shallotte, and Southport.
PRIVATE WELL USERS
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) has a consent order in place that requires Chemours to test private wells for PFAS if they are located within a certain distance to the Chemours facility near Fayetteville or the Lower Cape Fear River. If this could apply to you, contact NCDEQ at (910) 678-1100 for those in the lower Cape Fear (Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, and Pender counties).
For private well users that fall outside the eligible testing areas, you can review the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service’s PFAS Testing and Treatment Factsheet to find a lab that can test your well.
PFAS (PFOA, PFOS, GenX, PFBS) has been detected in my water. Is it safe to drink?
Generally, the lower the levels, the lower the risk.
FOR GENX AND PFBS:
If above health advisory levels: The levels of GenX/PFBS in your water would increase the risk of health effects based on the EPA health advisory levels for these compounds.
If below health advisory levels: The levels of GenX/PFBS in your water are not expected to increase the risk of health effects associated with these compounds.
FOR PFOA AND PFOS:
The new EPA health advisory levels for PFOA and PFOS are below levels that can be detected with current commercial laboratory testing. Therefore, any detection of either PFOA or PFOS in drinking water could represent an increased health risk.
PFAS (PFOA, PFOS, GenX, PFBS) has been detected in my water supply. Can I shower, bathe, wash clothes/dishes, water my plants, etc.?
Yes. Based on the current science, only a small amount of PFAS gets into your body through skin, so little PFAS exposure would come from showering, bathing, and similar activities.
Typical follow-up: What about brushing my teeth?
The amount of water ingested while brushing teeth is minimal relative to the amount of water typically consumed through eating and Exposures from brushing teeth would present a minimal health risk.
Can I use my water to mix my babies’ formula?
FOR GENX AND PFBS:
The health advisory levels were calculated for the most sensitive populations, e.g., infants. If the GenX or PFBS is below the advisory level, then it is not expected to increase risk of health effects and can be used.
FOR PFOA AND PFOS:
The new EPA health advisory levels for PFOA and PFOS are below levels that can be detected with current commercial laboratory testing. Therefore, any detection of either PFOA or PFOS in drinking water could represent an increased health risk and we would recommend using an alternate source or filtered water.
PFAS (PFOA, PFOS, GenX, PFBS) has been detected in my water supply. Is it safe for pets or animals?
Health advisory levels are established for humans. It is up to each pet owner to decide whether to offer water with PFAS detections to pets or animals.
At this time, scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposures to mixtures of different PFAS. One way to learn about whether PFAS will harm people is to do studies on lab animals.
Most of these studies have tested doses of PFAS that are higher than levels found in the environment.
These animal studies have found that PFAS can cause damage to the liver and the immune system.
PFAS have also caused birth defects, delayed development, and newborn deaths in lab animals.
Humans and animals react differently to PFAS, and not all effects observed in animals may occur in humans. Scientists have ways to estimate how the exposure and effects in animals compare to what they would be in humans.
Additional research may change our understanding of the relationship between exposure to PFAS and human health effects.
What health effects should I be worried about?
Based on the EPA’s review of the science, exposures to these four PFAS (PFOA, PFOS, GenX, PFBS) above the EPA health advisory levels can
• Decreased liver function
• Decreased immune response and reduced vaccine effectiveness
• Decreased birthweight, behavioral changes of infants and children
• Increased risk of high blood pressure for pregnant women
• Increased cholesterol levels
• Increased risk of kidney and/or testicular
If you are concerned about specific issues with your health, talk with your health care provider. Information for health care providers is available from NCDHHS and from the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Human health effects from exposure to low environmental levels of PFAS are uncertain. Studies of laboratory animals given large amounts of PFAS indicate that some PFAS may affect growth and development. Epidemiologic studies on PFAS exposure evaluated several health effects. Descriptions of these studies are available at: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects/. More research is necessary to assess the human health effects of exposure to PFAS. (Information is from the CDC.)
How can I be exposed to PFAS?
PFAS can be found in the environment near facilities where they are made or in areas where products containing PFAS are often used. PFAS may be found in contaminated drinking water, food, indoor dust, some consumer products, and workplaces. Most exposures occur through consuming contaminated food or water. Only a small amount of PFAS can get into your body through your skin, so very little PFAS exposure occurs during swimming, bathing, or showering in water contaminated with PFAS. Although some types of PFAS are no longer used, many products such as food packaging, firefighting foam and stain resistant treatments still contain PFAS.
What can I do to reduce my exposures to PFAS?
It is difficult to fully prevent PFAS exposure because PFAS are present at low levels in some foods and in the environment. However, there are steps you can take to reduce your PFAS exposure.
If you live near known sources of PFAS contamination or your drinking water contains PFAS above the EPA health advisory levels, you may want to use a different water source or filter your water before drinking, cooking, and preparing infant formula.
NC DHHS has developed a PFAS testing and treatment factsheet. This factsheet provides information on available treatment systems that have been shown to reduce PFAS concentrations in drinking water.
Reduce your use of products containing PFAS (packaged foods, products with non-stick or stain resistant coatings, and some personal care products). If you have questions about the products you use in your home, contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission at (800) 638-2772.
Boiling water will NOT remove PFAS.
Is there one location where PFAS studies are summarized?
There are many ongoing PFAS health studies in North Carolina and across the country. Although we don’t currently have one location for summarizing PFAS studies, NCDHHS continues to engage with researchers at the forefront of PFAS research to evaluate new health and toxicity information as it becomes available and update our public health guidance when needed. Ongoing studies include:
• PFAS Testing Network efforts to better understand the extent of exposure from drinking water across our state
• GenX Exposure Study at North Carolina State University
• PFAS UNITEDD multi-university project headed by the Colorado School of Mines
• Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Exposure Assessments and Multi-Site Health Studies
Last Updated: April 2020
Will Brunswick County cut off my water? If so, when?
Brunswick County will only cut off water to a community if the Mayor of that community declares a mandatory evacuation. Even then, Brunswick County Public Utilities will not completely turn off water until such time as it is unsafe for staff to remain at these locations. If a less intense storm is anticipated, it may only be necessary to limit the flow to beach communities while still maintaining a minimum pressure. Any such decision is made jointly with officials in that town, based on storm decisions as they occur. Our goal is to maintain water availability throughout the storm, only shutting off water service to vulnerable beach communities well after a mandatory evacuation is declared in order to protect the integrity of the system in and effort to maintain both fire protection and potable (drinkable) water supplies.
If I evacuate, should I turn off my water?
Shutting off water to individual houses, especially those on the ocean front, may provide some level of protection if plumbing pipes are damaged during the storm. However, care should be taken when this is done. Some household appliances, such as water heaters, require water to operate properly and may be damaged if left powered on without a water supply. Therefore, homeowners should consider powering off (shutting off appropriate breakers) if they choose to turn off the water at their house. The homeowner should use their home’s private shut-off valve to the plumbing system to turn the water off; County equipment and valves in the meter box should not be tampered with. There is electronic equipment in the meter box that may easily be damaged by unauthorized personnel. It is worth noting that if a storm dictates that a mandatory evacuation be proclaimed for a community, Brunswick County will either limit the pressure of shut off the water to the community immediately after the storms impact.
Will my grinder tank fill up during a storm?
This is very unlikely. A typical grinder tank installed by Brunswick County has over 360 gallons of capacity above the point that the alarm comes on. Most single-family residential houses use much less water than that during a typical day when showers, washers, dishwashers, etc. are being used. During a storm where power is lost, water usage is reduced considerably. Usually showers, washers, dishwashers, etc. are not used when the power is out, thus extending the time it takes to fill the grinder tank.
What if the power stays out for an extended period after a storm?
In the event of an extended time period without power, Brunswick County has the ability to use vacuum excavation trucks to empty the grinder tank. In the case of a significant storm event requiring mandatory evacuation, it is expected that water usage will be minimal.
What if I use a generator?
If you use a generator capable of running high water usage appliances, it is recommended that you also power the breaker(s) to your grinder pump stations. If the generator is capable and wired to energize the entire house, then the grinder pump will work as normal.
Will my grinder pump “dead head” (be incapable of pumping) due to high pressures in the system during a storm?
This is very unlikely. Typically, Brunswick County grinder pumps are part of a low-pressure system designed to have other similar sized grinder pumps connected to the system. It is rare that a pump is not capable of pumping due to high pressure in a low-pressure collection system. However, if this occurs, as pumps turn off in the system upon emptying their basins, any pumps that are “dead heading” will eventually begin to pump down.
What do I do with my storm debris – and when?
Damage assessments play a critical role in how local governments respond to and recover from events. While everyone’s first response is to start the cleanup, these assessments are important in determining the needs of our community as a whole. For the county to get an accurate idea of the amount of damage that is storm related, we ask that you hold your debris while keeping categories including vegetative debris, construction and demolition debris, electronics, household trash, appliances and metal, household hazardous waste, etc. North Carolina has several landfill bans in place for many of these items. Having the items separated is key in making sure we uphold the law and safety of all our emergency responders. If you do decide to haul your storm related debris to the landfill prior to the assessments, normal tipping fees and long lines are likely.