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Click below for water test results for unregulated contaminants such as 1,4 Dioxane, Gen-x, and other PFAS
Northwest Water Treatment Plant Expansion & Reverse Osmosis Treatment Upgrades
FAQs - General PFAS
Frequently Asked Questions
How will BCPU ensure the water is safe once Low Pressure Reverse Osmosis is implemented?
- BCPU has studied remineralization extensively with our LPRO pilot unit and has designed a system that will be adding minerals back to the water after it is treated with reverse osmosis. Remineralization is not new technology, it is very common to have to add minerals back to the water so it is not aggressive on distribution pipes and household plumbing fittings. Once the water has passed through the LPRO, calcium carbonate (lime) will be fed at a specified dose to add back some minerals, hardness, and alkalinity, then carbon dioxide will also be added to reduce the pH back to normal drinking water levels (7-8.5pH) while also stabilizing the hardness and alkalinity. Another process mandated by the State, is for BCPU to use orthophosphate, this aids in preventing corrosion to our pipes and the plumbing in our homes by putting a micro fine layer of phosphate on our pipes. Currently we monitor for corrosion of household plumbing fixtures and piping by conducting lead and copper sampling throughout the water system on homes known to have copper pipe with lead solder. We also monitor certain parameters daily at the treatment plants and weekly in the distribution system to ensure our water is safe and won’t corrode our pipes or your household plumbing. gw
What is GENX?
- According to DuPont Chemours, GENX is a technology developed to make high-performance polymers used in cabling, cookware non-stick coatings, laptops, cell phones, and a host of similar applications. The processing aid associated with the process is commonly referred to as GENX. GENX replaces the use of PFOA (perflurooctanaic acid).
What do we know about GENX?
- We know that the EPA has not yet developed a drinking water regulation for this contaminant and that there is limited information available on it. Ultimately, EPA will determine potential impacts and safety standards.
What is a contaminant?
- The EPA’s Web site states, “The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) defines ‘contaminant’ as any physical, chemical, biological, or radiological substance or matter in water. Drinking water may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. Some contaminants may be harmful if consumed at certain levels in drinking water. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk.”
What is the difference in PFOA (C8) and GENX?
- Both chemicals are used in the production of plastics, water/stain repellants, firefighting foams, and food-contact paper coatings and have similar, but not identical, chemical characteristics. GenX and other perfluoroalkyl ether carboxylic acids (PFECAs) are replacing PFOA (C8) and other polyfluoralkyl chemicals (PFASs) due to their purported rapid bioelimination (elimination from the body). Both chemicals are unregulated by the EPA for drinking water standards. However, more studies are available on PFOA (and a similar chemical, PFOS) than for GenX. The EPA has established a lifetime health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS of 70 parts per trillion, though there is not a similar health advisory level for GenX.
What are these chemicals used for?
- Fluoropolymer-based materials that contain PFOA, PFOS, and GenX are found in several different environments that humans are regularly exposed to. According to DuPont, the company’s fluoropolymers are used in non-sticking coatings for cookware, breathable water repellent clothing for outdoor, military, medical and clean room activities. In addition to cookware and clothing, fluoropolymers are used to make things lighter, like laptop computers, cellphones, media players and home theaters.
- The EPA’s Drinking Water Lifetime Health Advisory level for PFOA and PFOS is 70 parts per trillion. According to the EPA fact sheet, EPA scientists take into account other means of exposure when determining a health advisory. So, exposure routes such as air, food, dust, and consumer products are taken into consideration when determining the health advisory for drinking water.
When did Brunswick County learn about GENX?
- Brunswick County was not aware of the presence of GENX in the Cape Fear River, or the study performed by researchers from N.C. State University, until recent media reports.
How is GenX measured?
- Measurements of GenX are commonly reported as parts per trillion (PPT) or as nanograms per liter (ng/L). According to the EPA, these two forms of measurement are equivalent (1 PPT is the same as 1 ng/L), and both are equivalent to one drop in one trillion gallons of water.
What health guidelines or regulatory limits are available?
- There are no U.S. regulatory guideline levels for GENX. However,on July 14, North Carolina Health and Human Services released an updated preliminary health assessment for concentrations of the unregulated compound GenX in finished, or treated, drinking water. The revised health goal for exposure to GenX in drinking water is 140 nanograms per liter (also referred to as parts per trillion). This updated health goal of 140 parts per trillion is expected to be the most conservative and health protective for non-cancer effects in bottle-fed infants, pregnant women, lactating women, children and adults. This health goal is lower than the health goal in the initial preliminary health assessment. This change reflects information from new data. For more information about the initial and revised assessments, visit https://www.ncdhhs.gov/news/press-releases/joint-deq-dhhs-release-state-releases-first-water-quality-data-updated-health.
What is a Lifetime Health Advisory?
- The EPA issues Health Advisories for some chemicals, guidelines which offer an estimate of acceptable limits for daily consumption that are not expected to cause adverse health effects (which vary by chemical and advisory, but can include health effects like cancer, thyroid effects and/or liver effects) to vulnerable populations (such as infants, pregnant woman or elderly persons). The health advisories refer to different time frames, and give an estimate of an acceptable limit for consistent daily consumption over that period of time without adverse health effects. A one-day health advisory refers to concentrations of a chemical in drinking water that are not expected to cause adverse health effects for up to one day of exposure. A ten-day health advisory refers to a concentration that is not expected to cause adverse health effects for up to ten days of consistent daily exposure at that level (based on a 10 kg/22 pound child consuming one liter of water per day).
- A lifetime health advisory refers to a concentration that is not expected to cause adverse health effects over a lifetime of consistent daily exposure at that level (based on a 70 kg/154 pound adult consuming two liters of water each day). These advisories are not enforceable standards, but are meant to serve as guidance, and are based on scientific studies.
Who benefits from the lawsuit that Brunswick County filed against Chemours and DuPont?
- Brunswick County Public Utilities customers will benefit from the lawsuit. It is protecting these customers’ interests and needs.
Why did Brunswick County file a lawsuit against Chemours and DuPont?
- Brunswick County filed suit against Chemours and DuPont to protect Brunswick County Utilities customers and their long-term water needs. The lawsuit is looking at the interests of Brunswick County’s customers in the long run and protecting customers against new and emerging chemical compounds.
What steps can I take at home? Is there a home filtration system that will remove GenX?
- There is very little information currently available regarding GenX and filtration, at the utility level and at the home or individual system level. Some scientists and researchers speculate that certain filtration types might remove GenX from drinking water; however, at this time there is no firm data showing whether or not these systems actually do, and state officials have no recommendations regarding home filtration systems. If data becomes available to Brunswick County regarding proven steps that residents can take, including home filtration systems, we will share it at www.brunswickcountync.gov/genx.
Will boiling my water remove Genx?
- There would not be any expected benefit to boiling water in order to remove GenX, because it is a chemical compound.
What about reverse osmosis?
- Reverse Osmosis is known as an effective treatment technology for the removal of very small size particles, inclusive of essential minerals, many chemical compounds, and bacteria. Each drinking water treatment method has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Should I drink bottled or distilled water?
- The health needs and situations of individuals vary widely and the use of bottled water or distilled water is an individual decision that should be discussed with your physician.
Will there be bottled water provided?
- At this time, there are no plans to provide bottled water.
With GENX in the Cape Fear River, what can/will Brunswick County do to ensure the water is safe?
- Brunswick County Public Utilities treats its source water above and beyond current state and federal standards and maintains a robust sampling and monitoring schedule. Additionally, we believe in the importance of participating in studies to ensure that emerging compounds are discovered and appropriately regulated to protect drinking water utilities and their customers. BCPU believes the best next step is to determine if this compound needs to be regulated. Additionally, Brunswick County supports and encourages efforts by Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to eliminate discharges of chemicals into the river that have possible detrimental impacts on drinking water source quality. You can view BCPU’s water quality reports, with information about Brunswick County’s water system and the sampling mentioned above, online.
Does BCPU monitor for GENX?
- Brunswick County is working with the Department of Environmental Quality and other utilities in the region to provide testing for both the raw source water in the Cape Fear River and the finished water within the distribution system of these utilities. Results of testing that has been performed, by Brunswick County and by NCDEQ, can be viewed on this page under the “Brunswick County Water Testing Results” tab.
- For more information on permitting and compliance enforcement, please contact the State of North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality–the agency responsible for monitoring and regulating discharges on the river.
Why do the test results from the week of July 3 show more GenX in the treated water than in the raw?
- Each analytical test has what is called a window of variability: the analytical method has many steps that have to be followed and each one will have slight variations, the calibration curves will look slightly different from one test to the next, sample spike recoveries will be slightly different from test to test. It doesn’t mean they are wrong, just that there are slight variations in each test and when two results are within 1.8% of each other in the parts per trillion realm they can appear to be higher than one would perceive they should be; in this case the finished water was higher than the raw water. Then you have the variability in the actual water being sampled. The two water samples are collected at the same time but represent two different water qualities and stream flows. The finished water sample is water that came down the raw pipe twelve hours earlier than the raw water sample was collected as that is how long it takes the water to pass through all the treatment processes.
Has Brunswick County tested for or found any similar substances?
- Every five years, the EPA develops a list of contaminants of interest for local utility providers to monitor. The contaminants are not subject to regulation, but are known or anticipated to be in public water systems, and may require future regulation. In 2014 and 2015, testing performed by Brunswick County in compliance with this monitoring rule did show some amounts of the PFOA, sometimes referred to as C8, and PFOS compounds. In 2016, the health advisories were lowered, but the amounts Brunswick County had found were below the new health advisories. The results of these tests were reported to customers in the County’s annual Water Quality Report, which is sent to each customer and posted on the county’s website, where it remains viewable online. These results were also reported to the EPA and NCDEQ.
Is Brunswick County doing anything about 1,4-Dioxane?
- Every five years, the EPA develops a list of contaminants of interest for local utility providers to monitor. The contaminants are not subject to regulation, but are known or anticipated to be in public water systems, and may require future regulation. As part of testing for this list of contaminants, in 2015 Brunswick County did detect levels of 1,4-Dioxane, below EPA Health Advisory Levels issued at that time. The results of this testing were reported to customers in the County’s annual Water Quality Report, which is sent to each customer and posted on the county’s website (https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/files/utilities/2015/02/CCR_2015.pdf). The results were also reported to the EPA and NCDEQ. Brunswick County is consulting with NCDHHS and has requested additional information and clarification regarding health advisories and cancer risks for this chemical.
Is Brunswick County looking into cancer rates in our area, or a connection between cancer rates and chemicals in our water?
- NC Department of Health and Human Services has been looking into the rates of cancer, and specific types of cancer, comparing those rates to statewide rates to look for anomalies. After Chemours informed area officials that the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear River may have started decades earlier than initially indicated, NC DHHS researchers began examining these rates over a wider timeframe.
Can customers put a filter on their tap to remove GENX?
- GENX is a new, unregulated compound and we are unaware of technologies capable of removing it from the water at this time. We will provide more information as it becomes available.
What is being done about this situation?
- Since we were made aware of the presence of GENX in the Cape Fear River, we have been in constant communication with other area utility providers, state and federal government, and private agencies to learn as much as we can about the chemical, its potential impacts, and what steps to take next.
On June 15, Brunswick County Commissioners Chairman Frank Williams, County Manager Ann Hardy and Health and Human Services Executive Director David Stanley met with officials from Chemours and local and state agencies. At this meeting, Chemours officials stated that the GenX compound found in the Cape Fear River was likely a byproduct of another manufacturing process at the same location, and not due to discharge from the plant making GenX.
After the meeting, Brunswick County officials joined other local officials in asking Chemours to cease discharge of GenX into the Cape Fear River immediately, while regulatory authorities make a determination of the chemical. The Chairman’s notes from the meeting and video of the press conference held after are available at www.brunswickcountync.gov/genx.
At the June 19 regular Board of Commissioners meeting, the Board passed a resolution requesting that Chemours halt any process resulting in discharge of GenX into the Cape Fear River and approved funding for a consultant to provide specialized technical assistance.
NCDEQ and NC DHHS are leading a state investigation into the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear River, and are pushing Chemours to limit the amount of GenX being released into the river. NCDEQ is collecting water samples and sending them to a laboratory in Colorado which is capable of detecting GenX at low concentrations.
Will Rep. Rouzer be involved?
Is a map available showing locations within the Brunswick County service area that receives source water from the Cape Fear River?
Brunswick County operates two water treatment plants; the 24 million-gallons-per-day Northwest Water Treatment Plant that treats raw water from the Cape Fear River and the 6 million-gallons-per-day groundwater 211 Water Treatment Plant. While some areas of the system typically receive water from one plant or the other, a map could be misinterpreted to indicate that some customers never receive water from the Northwest Water Treatment Plant. Customers in the area of HWY 211 near the towns of St. James, Caswell Beach, Southport, and Oak Island primarily receive water from the 211 Water Treatment Plant or blended water from both plants at times. Bald Head Island has its own treatment plant, but supplementary water is supplied by the 211 Water Treatment Plant, or blended water. All other customers receive water from the Northwest Water Treatment Plant.
FAQs - Northwest Water Treatment Plant Project
Updated as of Jan. 28, 2020
Project Schedule and Bid Alternates
- When will the expansion and upgrades project at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant finish?
- The estimated date of completion will be more determinable after the Board of Commissioners selects which bid alternate to proceed with.
- The Board will determine which bid alternate to construct after bids are received on March 5.
- How many bid alternates is the County considering for this project?
- Addendum #3 was issued Dec. 19, 2019; it simplified the bid form and reduced the number of bid alternatives from 10 to four.
- The addendum also clarified the basis of award, which will provide a clearer indication of the apparent low bidder once the bids are opened.
- What are the differences between the four bid alternate?
- Each bid alternate has a different scope and timeline to provide flexibility with concern to cost. Each bid alternate establishes deadlines for operational use of the conventional treatment expansion, for operational use of the advanced low-pressure reverse osmosis system, and for final completion of all work.
- Overview of the Bid Alternates
- Bid Alternate #1: This alternate revises the deadline for beneficial use of the first five low-pressure reverse osmosis units to May 15, 2023. It also adds three more units (No. 6-8) to the bid with a deadline for beneficial use of Aug. 15, 2023, to determine whether the County can afford to proceed with installing eight units as part of this project. The final acceptance of all work (including the expansion project) has a deadline of Nov. 15, 2023.
- Bid Alternate #2: This alternate revises the deadline for the beneficial use of four low-pressure reverse osmosis units to May 15, 2023, and with a final acceptance of all work (including the expansion project) by Nov. 15, 2023.
- The alternate removed a fifth low-pressure reverses osmosis unit from the bid, preceding with four. Additional units could be installed in the future per the Board’s approval.
- Bid Alternate #3: This alternate revises the deadline to have beneficial use of five low-pressure reverses osmosis units to Nov. 15, 2022. The revised deadline for final acceptance of all work (including the expansion project) is Feb. 15, 2023.
- Bid Alternate #4: The alternate removes the low-pressure reverse osmosis process improvements from the bid. It includes only the work for the plant’s expansion project. The deadline for beneficial use of the conventional treatment process is May 15, 2022. The revised final acceptance of all work is Aug. 15, 2022.
- Brunswick County’s leadership remains committed to installing a low-pressure reverse osmosis system at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant. This is not an option the County is actively pursuing but is requesting bidders submit the information to have on file just in case.
- Why did the project completion dates and operational use of the advanced low-pressure reverses osmosis system get pushed back?
- Although excessive permitting review time frames have impacted the project schedule, Brunswick County is committed to providing additional capacity and advanced treatment as soon as is practical.
- The County adjusted the bidding schedule after the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) adjusted its schedule for the NPDES permit review process and several contractors expressed concern regarding the amount of time to prepare bids and their ability to meet the current project schedule.
- Why does Bid Alternative #4 not include the option to include an advanced low-pressure reverse osmosis system?
- Brunswick County’s leadership remains committed to installing a low-pressure reverse osmosis system at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant.
- DEQ issued a draft NPDES permit for the project Nov. 5, 2019, and the County will continue to work closely with DEQ and provide information and details as needed to ensure a smooth review process.
- Other factors such as bid price, project budget, and NPDES permit status will be considered when the Board makes it decision.
- How will the County award the bids for the projects?
- Bids are scheduled to be received March 5. The Board of Commissioners will determine which bid alternate to construct after bids are received.
- The consultant provided the following instructions to bidders under Section 10 – Bid Evaluation and Bidder Qualifications:
- “Contract award will be based on the responsible Bidder with the lowest Base Bid identified in the Form of Proposal. In addition, the Owner may select any of the Alternative Bid Items provided by the Bidder with the lowest Base Bid. Discrepancies on the Bidder’s proposal shall be resolved based on the Owner’s inspection and interpretation of the proposal as a whole. In cases where it is not evident what portion of a proposal is errant, discrepancies shall be resolved as follows.”
- How long is it expected to take the County to review bids, award a contract(s) and issue a notice to proceed?
- The project is currently open for bid with the bid date rescheduled for March 5, 2020. Notice of Award is anticipated to be issued April 20, 2020, with the Notice to Proceed to be issued in early May 2020.
Low-Pressure Reverse Osmosis, Expanding Capacity, and PFAS
- 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 36 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).
- 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.
- 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 at https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/genx/
- 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.
- What is a NPDES permit and why is it important?
- A National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit allows the permit holder to discharge a variety of approved discharges to surface waters or to a separate storm sewer system in accordance with terms and conditions set by DEQ.
- DEQ issued a draft NPDES permit for the project Nov. 5, 2019. An NPDES permit is necessary to receive construction financing approval from the Local Government Commission.
FAQs - National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
Below you will find a list of FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. Please read them over carefully and reach out if you have more questions or concerns and we will do our best to answer them. You may reach Glenn Walker, Water Resources Manager at: firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at 910-371-3490.
Why does Brunswick County need an NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit modification?
Brunswick County is adding Low Pressure Reverse Osmosis (LPRO) advanced water treatment measures at its Northwest Water Treatment Plant (WTP) due to the presence of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in our water source, the Cape Fear River. These substances are persistent in the environment (they do not naturally breakdown), difficult to remove from drinking water using traditional water treatment measures, and pose a human health risk if consumed frequently over an extended number of years. The addition of Low Pressure Reverse Osmosis to the treatment system will virtually eliminate these contaminants, as well as many other contaminants, from the drinking water and will provide higher quality drinking water to a seasonal population of around 200,000 people. The LPRO membranes are an additional step to the treatment process and do an excellent job of contaminant removal (imagine taking a glass of water from your faucet and then running it through a reverse osmosis process). These contaminants remain in a small percentage of the source water and this is why an NPDES permit modification is needed. Brunswick County completed an Engineering Alternatives Analysis for disposal of this water and determined that a return to the river was the most acceptable alternative. The Northwest Water Treatment Plant operates under an existing NPDES permit for disposal of filter backwash and modifications are necessary for the LPRO reject water addition.
Why did Brunswick County select LPRO (Low Pressure Reverse Osmosis) for advanced water treatment?
Brunswick County currently uses traditional filtration and chlorine treatment to produce potable water; advanced treatment methods are required to remove PFAS from the drinking water supply. Ion exchange (IX) resin, Granular Activated Carbon (GAC), and Low Pressure Reverse Osmosis (LPRO) advanced treatment methods were determined to be the most viable technologies capable of removing PFAS contaminants and these were fully investigated by the water resource experts on Brunswick County’s consulting team. Pilot testing was performed using all three measures and Low Pressure Reverse Osmosis best met Brunswick County’s target removal goals; virtually eliminating the PFAS from the drinking water at the least cost.
Should water treatment plants be used to remediate existing PFAS environmental contamination?
The only effective way to reduce or eliminate PFAS from the environment is at the source. Removal of PFAS at water treatment plants is not an effective means of remediation of the Cape Fear River because 1) water treatment plants typically process only a tiny fraction of the water in the source water river system and 2) this creates a substantial and widespread economic (cost burden) and social impact on users of the water system instead of the polluters causing the issue.
What is being done to reduce or eliminate PFAS contaminants from being introduced into the environment?
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is taking action to reduce or eliminate the discharge of PFAS contaminants by known industrial dischargers at their facilities (See https://deq.nc.gov/news/key-issues/genx-investigation for more information). EPA has also developed an Action Plan to develop recommendations and standards for PFAS (See https://www.epa.gov/pfas for more information).
Are there other technologies available that are equally protective to human health that do not require a discharge?
There is no “perfect” water treatment technology – there are drawbacks and benefits of all advanced treatment methods and all technologies have some form of residual discharge. Ion exchange resins must be formulated to the specific target contaminant of concern and, with 50+ known PFAS contaminants in the Cape Fear River, it was determined that this was not a viable alternative. Granular Activated Carbon has the potential to be a viable option but presents challenges for disposal of spent carbon, contaminant breakthrough of the GAC filters at high PFAS concentrations, and excessive GAC changeout at high PFAS concentrations. Moreover, GAC must be paired with other advanced treatment methods (ozone, biologically active filters, ultraviolet light) to be effective at removing other miscible contaminants. Pilot studies showed that for extremely low target values, or extremely high source water PFAS levels, Low Pressure Reverse Osmosis provided the best contaminant removal efficiency for the broadest array of contaminants. Some states have enacted some specific PFAS Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) values as low as 11 parts per trillion and other states are promulgating MCLs as low as 6 parts per trillion. Reverse Osmosis provides the best option for PFAS removal down to these extremely low levels. There is little known about many of the PFAS contaminants and it may take years of ongoing research before MCLs are formulated for many of these compounds. Brunswick County sought to invest in a technology that can meet these low, potential future MCL requirements.
Is the LPRO discharge similar to a wastewater treatment plant discharge?
No. Wastewater Treatment Plant discharges contain significant biological constituents that tend to use available oxygen in the water as well as some ammonia, nitrogen, and phosphorous. The LPRO Water Treatment will not contribute these types of contaminants. Prior to going through the LPRO process, water will essentially be treated to current drinking water standards using the existing conventional treatment techniques (flocculation, filtration, chemical addition) already in use at the Northwest WTP. The LPRO process will remove contaminants that are not readily removed by the conventional water treatment processes, such as PFAS, and return them to the river. This discharge will meet most drinking water standards with few exceptions (disinfection by-products, PFAS). For perspective, the amount of PFAS contained in one gallon of LPRO reject discharge will be equivalent to the amount of PFAS in ten gallons of drinking water using current treatment methods.
Will the LPRO process result in reduced river flows?
The LPRO process does require an initial increase of raw water because around 10% may be “rejected” by the membranes. However, the NPDES permit will allow for this water to be discharged back to the river (albeit further downstream from the intake) so that there is no net increase of raw water permanently removed from the Cape Fear River to accommodate the LPRO process. It is typical for utilities to discharge to the same water body from where the raw water is taken in order maintain adequate water volume for environmental integrity of the water body and availability for use by downstream users. Brunswick County is subject to Inter-basin Transfer regulations and this discharge is a factor in calculating the County’s net transfer of water from the Cape Fear River basin to other river basins within the County.
How will the NPDES discharge modification affect the amount of PFAS in the environment?
The NPDES permit modification will not increase the amount of PFAS compounds in the environment because the Northwest WTP is not a generator of PFAS compounds. PFAS compounds are present in the WTP’s source water taken from the Cape Fear River and the current conventional water treatment plant processes cannot remove it from drinking water; this means that the PFAS compounds are being delivered to customers at the tap. Currently, these PFAS compounds are then returned to the Cape Fear River Basin, Lockwood Folly River Basin, Shallotte River Basin, Waccamaw River Basin, and Greater Lumber River Basin through irrigation, septic, and wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) discharges. The return of the LPRO concentrate to the river is not a net addition of pollutants to the environment (or an increase in mass of PFAS compounds). With the proposed addition of membrane technology, Brunswick County will be providing its customers with the most protective advanced treatment measure for human health. Moreover, the LPRO project will ensure that PFAS compounds are not distributed throughout Brunswick County’s other river basins – the Lockwood Folly River Basin, Shallotte River Basin, Waccamaw River Basin, and Greater Lumber River Basin through the drinking water system and associated discharges (irrigation, septic, and WWTP discharges).
Will the NPDES discharge modification have a negative impact on commercial fishing in Brunswick County?
No, the LPRO project will actually reduce or eliminate PFAS being distributed to the Lockwood Folly River Basin, Shallotte River Basin, Waccamaw River Basin, and Greater Lumber River Basin through the drinking water system and associated discharges (irrigation, septic, and WWTP discharges). This means that within these river basins, shellfish and aquatic species exposure to PFAS will be reduced. Within the Cape Fear River Basin, the PFAS concentration will be at background levels (the concentration levels already within the river prior to the discharge) within approximately 30 feet of the discharge point.
Will I still be able to swim in the Cape Fear River downstream of the proposed discharge?
Yes, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) “Bathing and swimming in water that contains PFAS should not increase your exposure. Washing dishes in water containing PFAS should not increase exposure.” (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Web site https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/pfas-exposure.html) The PFAS concentration will be at background levels (the concentration levels already within the river prior to the discharge) within approximately 30 feet of the discharge point.
I have heard that the discharge will “concentrate” PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoralkyl Substances) like GENX, PFOA, and PFOS in the Cape Fear River. Is this true?
This is not a correct characterization of the discharge because it mistakenly creates the understanding that the concentration of PFAS within the Cape Fear River System will be greater after the discharge point. In reality, within approximately 30 feet of the discharge point, PFAS levels will be at background levels (the levels already within the river). The only effective way to eliminate PFAS from the river altogether is to control it at the source. This is best done by not allowing industrial producers to introduce PFAS into the river through their upstream discharges and minimizing or eliminating the use of PFAS products in the environment.
FAQs - EWG January 2020 Report
FAQs about the EWG January 2020 Report
Updated as of Jan. 28, 2020
- What is the County’s reaction to the EWG January 2020 report?
- Brunswick County began an extensive testing program for PFAS contaminants when academic studies revealed the presence of multiple PFAS in our drinking water.
- Our Public Utilities staff test for a suite of PFAS contaminants on a routine basis. All results are published on our website at https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/genx/
- The County is concerned about PFAS levels in our water and is proactively installing a low-pressure reverse osmosis system at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant to remove these contaminants.
- Is the water safe to drink and use?
- Brunswick County’s water samples have continuously remained below:
- The EPA’s established health advisory levels for PFOA + PFOS and
- The State’s established provisional health goal for GenX (North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services)
- The County is concerned about the combined levels of all PFAS in water samples and continues to test and monitor for most known PFAS compounds and GenX.
- Brunswick County will notify customers and residents immediately should any of its test samples exceed the health advisory levels.
- Brunswick County’s water samples have continuously remained below:
- What is the County going to do going forward?
- Because there are little or no studies on the health effects of combined PFAS components, the County is proactively installing an advanced low-pressure reverse osmosis treatment system at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant.
- Low-pressure reverse osmosis is the most protective water treatment system to treat and remove both regulated and unregulated materials from drinking water, including GenX and PFAS compounds.
- When will the low-pressure reverse osmosis system be built/ready?
- We are working diligently with engineers at CDM-Smith and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to design, permit and build an economical low-pressure reverse osmosis system at the plant for the benefit of all Brunswick County water users.
- We are currently in the permitting stage and the estimated date of completion will be more determinable after the County receives its NPDES permit from DEQ and after the Board of Commissioners selects which bid alternate to proceed with.
- Bids are expected to be received March 5.
- There are currently four bid alternates the Board will consider, each with a different scope and timeline to provide flexibility with concern to cost.
- Why are the PFAS levels so high?
- The PFAS levels can fluctuate from sample to sample and week to week. Some reasons include:
- Fluctuations from possible Fayetteville Works plant discharges
- Fluctuations in river flow that affects the dilution of discharges from upstream
- Brunswick County recognizes that these numbers are of concern to our residents and customers, which is why we are installing the low-pressure reverse osmosis system.
- The PFAS levels can fluctuate from sample to sample and week to week. Some reasons include:
Helpful resources to learn more about Brunswick County’s water testing, PFAS and low-pressure reverse osmosis
- Brunswick County statement in response to Environmental Working Group January 2020 report: https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/brunswick-county-statement-in-response-to-ewg-january-2020-report/
- Brunswick County Water Testing Results and FAQs: https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/genx/
- American Water Works Association (AWWA) Briefing on PFAS: https://www.awwa.org/Portals/0/AWWA/ETS/Resources/15683PFAS_web.pdf
- Story and link to January 2020 report: https://www.ewg.org/research/national-pfas-testing/
June 15, 2017 Meeting with Chemours
June 15, 2017 Meeting with Chemours
Brunswick County Commissioners’ Chairman Frank Williams, Manager Ann Hardy and Health & Human Services Executive Director David Stanley attended a meeting with Chemours and other local officials on June 15 to discuss GenX.
Updates from NCDEQ, NCDHHA, Governor Roy Cooper, and Chemours
Updates from NCDEQ, NCDHHS, Governor Roy Cooper, and Chemours
- DEQ takes action to stop additional Chemours discharge based on EPA report (Published Oct. 30)
- State announces chairman, first meeting of expanded state science panel to address new or emerging chemicals (Published Oct. 12)
- Brunswick County Resolution Supporting General Assembly Funding for Water Quality Safety (Approved Aug. 21)
- Governor Roy Cooper’s Water Quality State Action Items (July 24)
- Joint DEQ, DHHS Release: State Releases First Water Quality Data, Updated Health Information for GenX in Cape Fear River (Published Jul. 14)
- NC DHHS Releases Summary of Selected Cancer Rates for Counties in Cape Fear Region (Published Jun. 29)
- NCDEQ: State Moving forward with GenX investigation (Published Jun. 21)
- Chemours: Chemours Announces Voluntary Actions to Respond to North Carolina Community (Published Jun. 20)
- NCDEQ: DEQ starting water quality sampling for GenX in Cape Fear River (Published Jun. 19)
- DEQ, DHHS investigating reports of unregulated chemical in Cape Fear River (Published Jun. 14)
Resolutions and Letters
Letters to NCDEQ & Resolutions Regarding Chemours
Letters submitted to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality:
- Brunswick County Board of Commissioners (approved June 14)
- New Hanover County Board of Commissioners
- Cape Fear Public Utility Authority
Resolutions passed, urging Chemours to stop discharge of GenX into the Cape Fear River:
Research & Information
- Research Paper on GenX in the Cape Fear: “Legacy and Emerging Perfluoroalkyl Substances Are Important Drinking Water Contaminants in the Cape Fear River Watershed of North Carolina,” by Sun, et al. (Viewable by purchase only)
- General Water Information: View Brunswick County’s 2016 Water Quality Report, including information about the water system.
- NCDEQ’s GenX Investigation Information
- North Carolina Science Advisory Board: Studies ways North Carolina can better address issues related to new and emerging contaminants, including GenX and hexavalent chromium. View Board information and agendas, Board meeting audio recordings, or Board members.
- NC House Bill 56: Amend Environmental Laws (GenX Response Measures Section)
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.
Partner Organizations & Resources
For more information from Brunswick County’s partners and other resources, click the links below.
- AWWA PFAS Information
- Cape Fear Public Utility Authority
- City of Wilmington
- NCDEQ’s GenX Investigation
- Report Scams/Improper Solicitations to the Attorney General – Josh Stein, 1-877-5-NO-SCAM
- NC PFAST Network
- New Hanover County
- North Carolina Science Advisory Board
- Pender County
- Statement from Congressman David Rouzer