GREENSBORO, N.C. — The City of Greensboro has been closely monitoring water contaminants like PFOS and PFOA in the water since last year as they work on a solution to permanently remove the chemicals from the water.
That includes construction of a Granular Activated Carbon treatment system planned for the Mitchell Water Treatment Plant.
In the meantime, the Water Resources Department said it's "well positioned" to ensure the contaminants PFOS and PFOA do not pose a health risk to customers.
According to the city's webpage, these chemicals belong to a family of manmade chemicals used for more than 50 years to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. Perfluorinated compounds like PFOS and PFOA are extremely stable and do not breakdown in the environment. They're used in items such as the coating on food packaging, especially microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers, and can be found in fire-fighting foam.
In August, results showed levels of combined PFOS/PFOA at 96 parts per trillion (PPT). The Environmental Protection Agency established the health advisory level at 70 ppt. In the City's release, officials say that means a lifetime of drinking water at levels above 70 ppt increases the risk of adverse health effects to sensitive populations.
In a release, the water resources department lists out proactive measures taken by the city since 2015:
- Completed a watershed investigation to determine the source of the contaminants
- Actively involved stakeholders to minimize the uncontrolled release of contaminants to the environment
- Used an operational protocol to respond to elevated levels of these contaminants in untreated water
- Developed a computer model to map the transport of these contaminants in the watershed
- Purchased, installed, and are using a temporary Powered Activated Carbon (PAC) feed system
- Executed a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to install permanent treatment measures at Mitchell Water Treatment Plant
The new Granular Activated Carbon treatment system at the Mitchell Water Treatment Plant, plus other removal techniques, will cost around $31 million. After design and construction, the water resources department says the system improvements should be completed by 2022. The City also plans to add sedimentation basins and improve the system that handles solids removed from treated water.
"This long-term investment will ensure the highest quality drinking water for Greensboro customers and demonstrates the City's commitment to meet and exceed state and federal regulations," stated Mike Borchers, Assistant Director of Water Resources, in a release.