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CoastLine: What's in the Water?

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Built between 1915 and 1935, the three locks and dams once passed commercial traffic up and down the river. Today, the locks and dams rarely lock large vessels through; instead, they help protect water intakes for cities and industries along the river.

An American Rivers Report recently identified the Cape Fear and Neuse Rivers as in the top ten Most Endangered in the United States.  A 2016 study of the presence of hexavalent chromium in drinking water by the Environmental Working Group found levels higher than it considers safe in the tap water of more than 200 million Americans.  This is the same toxin that first landed on the national radar in the early 1990s when Erin Brockovich successfully sued a large utility for contaminating the drinking water supply.  The Environmental Protection Agency said in 2010 it was reviewing its standards; as of now, there is no specific limit for chromium-6 drinking water.  California is the only state that has set what it calls a public health goal. 

In the EWG study, New Hanover County is listed as having two out of three water systems showing Chromium-6 in the water.  California’s public standard is .02 parts per billion.  New Hanover County shows an average of .0110.  Brunswick County, on the other hand shows an average of .0815 – four times the level California considers acceptable.  On this edition of CoastLine, we find out where local water comes from and how the people in charge of your drinking water treat it before it comes out of your tap. 


Lawrence B. Cahoon,Professor of Biology and Marine Biology, University of North Carolina - Wilmington

Beth Eckert,Director of Environmental Management, Cape Fear Public Authority Authority

John Nichols, Director, Brunswick County Public Utilities

Bob Walker, Executive Director, H2GO, Brunswick Regional Water & Sewer

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.