The New Day for North Carolina Water Treatment

When news of the discovery of GenX and other chemical contaminants broke in June, many of us who work in North Carolina water wondered how far it would move the needle.  Would it be seen as an outlying, isolation situation deserving of study but not alarm, or would it start the ball rolling downhill and create the need to test for more contaminants across the state?

In late December, we all received the answer.  North Carolina environmental regulators announced they will start testing the state’s major supplies of drinking water for nearly two dozen “emerging contaminants”.  

Since June, the impacts of the EC discoveries moved north of the Lower Cape Fear Region.  Groundwater well sites around the Chemours plant 100 miles north of Wilmington began coming up contaminated and elevated numbers have been discovered in the center of the state.

The state's testing will cover Norman, Falls and Jordan lakes, and the Yadkin and Catawba rivers, and focus on the perfluorinated chemicals that have been causing concerns for water industry for years.  Before Dr. Knappe's study changed the game in North Carolina, the substances were found in an August 2016 study in 33 other states.  And North Carolina wasn't even on the list of the worst offenders.

Because of the expansion of the state scrutiny, the PFAS issue will touch hundreds of thousands more customers in 2018 then in 2017.  It will put longtime water professionals in a position of needing to explain why the mere existence of a PFAS in the water supply or the finished drinking water does not mean it is contaminated.  They will need to let their customers know more about their water more often, far beyond the annual results shown in a CCR.

However, we have seen - through some trial and error - that the more transparent a public utility is about the issue, the better off they will be.  And the focus will remain where it should be, on those polluting our waterways.