The $450,000 will be used to test mobile PFAS treatment methods
WILMINGTON — Using funds allocated in the state budget, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority will study mobile treatment options for removing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from water.
Designed for periods of high use, CFPUA’s aquifer storage and recovery site (ASR) takes water from the Sweeney plant, drains it into the Upper Peedee Aquifer and stores it for later. But since water came from the Sweeney plant, which a study has shown could not filter out GenX, the contaminants were injected into the aquifer.
The N.C. General Assembly’s updated state budget bill allocated $450,000 to CFPUA to sample water at the ASR site and Sweeney Water Treatment Plant, as well as testing temporary ion exchange and carbon treatment systems. On Aug. 8, the utility authority’s board endorsed staff’s plan to accomplish the study, which is designed for PFAS chemicals such as GenX.
Jim Flechtner, CFPUA’s executive director, said, “What we want to investigate is whether there’s a mobile technology we can just bring in there and set up at the well site and pull the water from the ground and treat it before we put it in the distribution system without making permanent improvements to the site.”
In 2017, CFPUA pumped nearly 50 million gallons of water out of the well after it was determined to be contaminated with GenX. The project cost about $600,000 between engineering costs and construction of discharge pipes and monitoring wells.
Documents indicate CFPUA plans to host a public bidding process for equipment lease, installation and treatment in the coming months. If the cost of equipment and an estimated $247,000 in engineering and lab tests is greater than the state allocation, CFPUA will use capital funds to pay for the project.
Now, the agency is analyzing the ASR well — located off of Westbrook Avenue in Wilmington — for more than 300 different compounds, with the findings of that study guiding how the ion exchange and granular activated carbons treat any of those compounds detected, according to documents prepared for the board.
CFPUA is also continuing to explore a $46 million granular activated carbon system upgrade to the Sweeney plant. After agreeing in May to allow staff to negotiate a design contract for the system, the CFPUA board will participate in a PFAS workshop Wednesday that is part of that process.
CFPUA is not, Flechtner said, prepared to start re-filling the ASR.
“We’re not talking about injecting water again,” Flechtner said. “We’re not having that discussion yet with the state.”
Reporter Adam Wagner can be reached at 910-343-2389 or Adam.Wagner@GateHouseMedia.com.