As technology continues to evolve and improve, laboratories can identify and detect new compounds that were previously unknown. When found in the drinking water supply, these new chemicals are known as “emerging contaminants.”
Emerging contaminants create a challenge for drinking water providers because they are unregulated, and little is known about their potential risks to human health and the environment.
Since the emerging contaminants (GenX/PFAS) issue with drinking water sourced from the Cape Fear River began in 2018, nothing has changed with the sources of the Village’s drinking water. The primary source of the island’s drinking water is island wells. The Village uses a reverse osmosis (RO) system to treat its water. This method successfully removes the emerging contaminants. While the island’s water is supplemented with treated water from Brunswick County, the water it receives comes from the NC 211 plant also draws from wells and is treated. The NC 211 plant water is supplemented with treated water from Brunswick County’s Northwest Plant. The Northwest Plant’s water source is the Cape Fear River. This blended and treated water supplements Bald Head Island’s water during high use periods and is blended with the island’s treated water. Through this process, a very dilute quantity of treated Cape Fear River water is combined with the island’s drinking water.
When tested for emerging contaminants in 2018, the concentration in the island’s potable water was slightly more than 2 parts per trillion (ppt). The human consumption threshold at the time was 140 ppt (it is currently 4 ppt). With reductions in source contamination since that time, the concentrations throughout the river and in the treatment system are well below the 140 ppt threshold.
Mr. McCann emphasized that this is a snapshot in time, the results can change. This is because the Village pulls from different wells over time and adds Brunswick County treated water at various amounts during peak usage periods. He explained that as more testing is performed the Village will get a better understanding of what sources impact the results. The frequency of testing required for local water systems is likely to come out of the EPA’s guidance. The current proposed levels are also a snapshot and are subject to change. Mr. McCann indicated that the proposed levels have gone from 140 ppt and 70 ppt to the currently proposed levels of 4.0 ppt and 1.0 Hazard Index (unitless).
Mr. McCann reported that the Village would be performing additional testing that will concentrate on water from the wells closest to the river and intake water coming from Brunswick County and then a tap result. The Village is also being proactive by putting in pre-filters and is seeking to modify them to include additional filters such as GAC (granular activated carbon) filtration.
The Village will provide updates as more test results are received and as the EPA’s regulations become final.
View all the EPA slides HERE.
At the August 18, 2023, Village Council meeting, JP McCann, Public Services Director, gave an update on emerging contaminants (this information was reported in the Village’s Voice e-newsletter). He indicated that all 16 wells will be tested going forward. He said he is expecting test results to come in for three wells, the County water line, and taps at the Public Safety building.
Mr. McCann answered questions about the Village’s use of water from Brunswick County. He said that usage depends on the time of the year and is based on demand. The Village uses the County water most in the months of June, July, and August. He emphasized that the testing of the water is a snapshot in time and that the Village’s water meets EPA standards with the current filters in place and is well below maximum thresholds for emerging contaminants. The raw water testing is indicating that there are traces of the contaminants and the filters in place are working to result in finished water that is well within EPA standards.
At the September 15, 2023, Village Council Meeting, Jae Kim, Assistant Village Manger, reported on the Village’s Asset & Inventory Assessment Grant and its specific tasks, one task includes the following:
A Fall 23 DWSRF (Drinking Water State Revolving Fund) Application for a planning development and construction project. This consists of a water plan (filtering wells, pre-filtering prior to RO process) and lowering/eliminating contaminant (PFAS) from discharge effluent from wastewater treatment plan to lagoons (ex: activating carbons in effluent).
As the Village continues to perform test and takes further actions those will be posted on this webpage.
If you have any questions, please contact Carin Faulkner, Public Information Officer at (910) 457-9700 ext. 1025 or firstname.lastname@example.org.