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Brunswick County is absorbing some of the costs for the Northwest Water Treatment Plant infrastructure enhancements-therefore all the project costs are not directly passed on through water rates. However, the County had to start making anticipated debt service repayments in 2022 for the installation of the reverse osmosis treatment system to remove unregulated PFAS contaminants like GenX from our water and to construct a new raw water line to increase capacity to the plant.
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Brunswick County has actively sought a solution to remove PFAS from drinking water after the discovery of PFAS substances in the Cape Fear River in June 2017. Following review of multiple treatment options, the County selected low-pressure reverse osmosis and initiated a pilot scale system at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant to confirm water quality and PFAS removal. In April 2018, CDM Smith's reported that the pilot low-pressure reverse osmosis system reduced most PFAs to undetectable levels including PFOA, PFOS, and GenX.
The team proceeded with the design and the project went out to bid in Winter 2019. The County anticipates the low-pressure reverse osmosis system will go online in summer or fall of 2023, with final completion in early 2024. Individuals can follow the project on the Northwest Water Treatment Plant page.
NC government agencies are also working on all fronts to continue to reduce exposure to GenX and other PFAS. This includes continuing efforts to reduce emissions and discharges from the Chemours plant and efforts to reduce GenX and other PFAS as much as possible in drinking water. The NC Department of Environmental Quality's PFAS Roadmap details NCDEQ's priorities and planned actions to reduce PFAS in our state. The U.S. EPA's PFAS Roadmap details national policies, priorities, and actions planned for the next five years.
This three-phase project will expand the plant's water treatment capacity from 24 million gallons per day (MGD) to 45 million gallons per day will provide a low-pressure reverse osmosis treatment capacity of no less than 36 million gallons per day (MGD) to support the projected increase of residential, commercial, and industrial water use in the county.
It will feature an advanced low-pressure reverse osmosis water treatment system, which is considered one of the most advanced and effective methods to treat and remove both regulated and unregulated materials from drinking water, including GenX, 1,4-dioxane and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
All of Brunswick County's water customers and wholesale water customers receive either all or part of their water from the Northwest Water Treatment Plant. Within the Southport, St. James, Oak Island, and Caswell Beach areas, water from the Northwest Water Treatment is blended with water from the Highway 211 Water Treatment Plant to serve customers. The Highway 211 Water Treatment Plant sources its water from groundwater wells. Bald Head Island has its own treatment plant, but supplementary water is supplied by the 211 Water Treatment Plant, or blended water from both county plants. All other customers in the County receive their water solely from the Northwest Water Treatment Plant.
Note: As of June 2022, Brunswick County's current wholesale customers include Bald Head Island, Holden Beach, Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer (H2Go), Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Shallotte, and Southport.
With a population nearing 135,000 residents and growing, Brunswick County is expanding its capacity at the plant to provide an adequate and reliable supply of water to support all of Brunswick County's residential, commercial, and industrial needs both now and in the future. More than 300,000 people are served by Brunswick County Public Utilities during the peak season (summer), including both county and wholesale customer service areas.
In 2017, Brunswick County joined other utilities in the region to sue DuPont and Chemours. The County is seeking monetary damages from Chemours to hold it responsible for the millions of dollars it is spending to install a new treatment system necessary to remove PFAS contaminants. The lawsuit remains active and ongoing. Any proceeds received will be used for the benefit of all customer classes. How any proceeds from litigation would be used has not been analyzed nor determined at this time.
Under the current rate structure, the estimated bill is $34.68 for someone using 4,500 gallons (or $36.75 for 5,000 gallons). This does not include irrigation. This is well below the average bill of other North Carolina coastal communities of $41.04 (4,500 gallons) and the NC state median of $38.45 (5,000 gallons).
For a retail county customer, the estimated monthly cost for someone using 4,500 gallons per month (average user) is $34.68. This does not include irrigation. View the County's latest water and sewer rate schedule.