Fayetteville would receive $50m to remove PFAS from drinking water under new bill

FAYETTEVILLE, NC - The Fayetteville Public Works Commission, whose drinking water supply has long been contaminated with PFAS, would receive $50 million in state funds to install an advanced treatment system to remove the toxic substances, according to a bill filed in the state senate today.

Senate Bill 780 is sponsored by State Sen. Val Applewhite, who represents Fayetteville.

Earlier this month, the EPA set final drinking water standards of 4 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS, two types of the compounds. Public utilities have five years to comply.

Since 2021, Fayetteville’s running annual average for PFOA concentrations at its Hoffer plant have consistently exceeded 4 ppt — as much one and a half times more, according to the utility’s monitoring data.

For PFOS, the running annual average has also been above the new standard, as much as three times higher.

Concentrations of both types of compounds at the Glenville Lake plant exceed the drinking water standard as well, up to six times higher.

Senator Val Applewhite

  Sen. Val Applewhite (Photo: NCGA)

Exposure to PFAS has been linked to multiple health problems, including thyroid and liver disorders, reproductive and fetal development problems, immune system deficiencies, high cholesterol, and kidney and testicular cancers.

Fayetteville sources its drinking water from the Cape Fear River and Glenville Lake, which have become contaminated with PFAS by industrial dischargers.

Traditional treatment systems can’t remove PFAS, so utilities have to pay for advanced systems that can run tens of millions of dollars, costs that are passed on to customers. For example, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority spent $46 million for advanced treatment to remove PFAS, including GenX; it is suing Chemours, the source of the GenX pollution, to recoup the expense.

The Biden administration has allocated $1 billion to help the nation’s utilities comply with the new standards, but that amount is expected to be insufficient.

Fayetteville Public Works Commission studied various treatment methods and determined Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) media/method to be the most effective in removing PFAS.

As the GAC upgrade is being designed and built, the utility noted on its website, it is working to upgrade the current Powdered Activated Carbon treatment system. While not as efficient or economical as Granular Activated Carbon, the powdered version can effectively remove modest amounts of PFAS and would be a stopgap until the granular system is installed.

Construction on the Powdered upgrades are scheduled to begin this spring and is expected to be completed by April 2026.  The granular upgrade is expected to be operational by February 2028 — a year ahead of the EPA deadline — pending funding availability.

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