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NCDEQ and EPA representatives tour Sweeney Plant Treatment Plant near Wilmington

Sweeney Tour 6/15
Camille Mojica
/
WHQR
Deputy Executive Director of Treatment & Engineering at CFPUA, Carel Vandermeyden speaks with NC DEQ Secretary Elizabeth Biser and Radhika Fox, the assistant administrator for water at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Representatives from the state DEQ and EPA toured the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant this Wednesday morning following a new health advisory announcement from the EPA regarding PFAS.

The sounds of people excitedly talking fill the echoing chambers of the new Granular Activated Carbon filters at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant just north of Downtown Wilmington.

GAC Filter Well
Camille Mojica
/
WHQR
Each GAC filter well will be about the size of an olympic sized pool

Radhika Fox, the assistant administrator for water at the Environmental Protection Agency, toured the plant with representatives of the state DEQ to see the new GAC filters, which should come online by the end of the summer, and to promote recent actions by the EPA to eventually make those filters less necessary.

“Absolutely, a core priority for the Environmental Protection Agency, is to restrict PFAS, from entering our air, land, and water in the first place. So that we don't have communities like Cape Fear, and what you all have had to figure out through local determination through state action.”

GAC Media
Camille Mojica
/
WHQR
3,000,000 pounds of Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) will be delivered to the Sweeney Plant next month.

Three million pounds of GAC media are expected to be delivered sometime next month. The combined surface area of all that GAC would be enough to cover the State of North Carolina three times over, and it will all be replaced about every 270 days to ensure the filters keep removing PFAS from the drinking water. The chemicals, which form a brown foam on top of untreated water, are correlated with negative health impacts, like cancer.

The overall construction cost of the facility sits at about $36 million, with total project costs totaling $43 million — plus several million dollars in additional annual operational costs.

GAC Operational Costs
Camille Mojica
/
WHQR
Operational costs of the GAC treatment facility

CFPUA rates for consumers have gone up about 8.5% recently to help offset this cost; construction accounts for 70% of that rise.

But CFPUA is suing PFAS polluter Chemours to pay for the cost of that construction. And the recently proposed legislation, House Bill 1095 may legally mandate polluters, not consumers, to pay for cleanup of the water.

PFAS in water
Camille Mojica
/
WHQR
These are the current wells being used to filter out PFAS, which can be seen at the top of the water