Water treatment plant upgrades taking shape years after GenX discovery


WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Its been five years now since Eastern North Carolina encountered the GenX water crisis.

Since the discovery of contaminants in the Cape Fear River, local governments and utilities have spent millions of dollars and countless hours working to remedy it, many of which are starting to take shape.

At CFPUA’s Sweeney Water Treatment Plant in New Hanover County, new granular activated carbon filters are already being installed.

Construction on the filters began in November of 2019 and this long term fix is on track to go online about six months from now.

“The only reason they were building these filters is because Chemours and Dupont spent 40 years discharging their PFAS to the Cape Fear River,” said Vaughn Hagerty of CFPUA. “When these filters are built they’re going to be very, very effective at removing that PFAS.”

Crews are also hard at work tackling the same problem in Brunswick County, where a new reverse osmosis plant is taking shape.

“There’s a lot of excavation going on right now in the projects moving along but it’s early yet,” said Brunswick County Public Utilities Director John Nichols.

The county was in the final phase of expanding the northwest water plant when the GenX crisis came to light.

“We were already planning on expanding however we didn’t plan on expanding it with the advanced treatment but when we found out about GenX in the Cape Fear River, we knew we had to make some changes to the project some pretty significant changes,” said Nichols.

Those changes that came with a hefty price tag, which is why the county is one of many parties, like CFPUA, involved in the federal lawsuit to ensure the improvements to remove the contaminants from the drinking water are paid for.

“Currently the lawsuit is in discovery, its thousands and thousands of documents, emails and other records that need to be gone through, and that could take as long as another year,” explained Hagerty.

But providing clean water cant wait. At this rate, Brunswick County and CFPUA will have their multi million dollar water treatment plants operational well before the fall 2023 expected trial date.

“The one thing to take from all of this is that clean water is an incredibly important part of our community you can’t replace it. It’s not just the water that comes out of your tap, it’s a source of that water and we all need to play a part in making sure that water is protected,” concluded Hagerty.

These two facilities aren’t the only water projects underway. Separate from the efforts to mitigate GenX from surface waters, H2GO is also building a RO facility to purify groundwater.

Pender County is in the planning stages of constructing their own RO facility in the next five years to purify well water.

A representative of Chemours issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

Chemours has taken numerous actions over the past four years that have significantly decreased emissions of PFAS and loading…



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