Cumberland County Manager Amy Cannon on Monday is expected to ask the Board of Commissioners to create two new water and sewer districts to combat contamination of private wells due to GenX and other PFAS chemicals in portions of the county.
Cannon will ask commissioners to consider creating Cedar Creek and East Central water and sewer districts. She also will recommend serving the existing Vander Water and Sewer District.
The Cedar Creek Water and Sewer District is bounded by the Cape Fear River on the west, N.C. 210 South on the north, Bladen County on the south and Turnbull Road on the east. The district contains concentrations of GenX along the Cape Fear River and PFAS greater than 10 parts per trillion throughout, mostly along Johnson and Matt Haire roads.
The proposed East Central Water and Sewer District is bounded by Maxwell Road on the north, Sampson County on the east, Avard Road on the south, and N.C. 210 South and Carder Road on the west. The district contains concentrations of PFAS greater than 10 parts per trillion throughout.
The county established the Linden and Vander water and sewer districts in 2002. It is bounded by Wilmington Highway on the west, John Carter Road on the east, Murphy Road on the east and north, and N.C. 24 on the north as well. The Vander Water and Sewer District has pockets of PFAS greater than 10 parts per trillion throughout.
Cannon’s recommendations come after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on June 15 released updated health advisory levels for four PFAS chemicals prevalent in county wells including GenX, PFOA, PFOS and PFBS. The result of those advisory levels increased the number of private wells eligible for whole building filtration or public water connection by 1,300, according to Assistant County Manager Brian Haney. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality previously estimated a 1,700 increase.
Initially, the contamination coming from the Chemours chemical plant located on the Cumberland/Bladen County line was focused in the Gray’s Creek community, but it since has found its way to other areas of the county. GenX, a chemical compound used in manufacturing by Chemours, was first discovered in the Cape Fear River in 2017. Earlier this year, Cumberland County failed to get a commitment from Chemours to help pay for water district construction, and the county filed a lawsuit against Chemours.
The county formed the Gray’s Creek Water and Sewer District as part of its master plan for countywide water in 2009. However, Gray’s Creek residents voted down a $21 million water system referendum in November 2011. Since then, residential development on land contaminated with forever chemicals continues. County board Chairman Glenn Adams on several occasions has voted against proposed developments in the area.
Adams could not be reached for comment regarding the county manager’s proposals. The board will consider Cannon's recommendations at a special called meeting scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. in Room 118 of the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse.
The board approved $258,600 in the fiscal 2023 adopted budget to start extending water and sewer service in the Gray’s Creek Water and Sewer District, specifically to serve two elementary schools and residential homes along the route to those schools.
The board has made the provision of water and sewer in that area one of its primary goals and allocated $21 million from various pots of money to provide water and sewer services to the Gray’s Creek community. Of the $21 million, $10 million comes from the county's American Rescue Plan Act account, $10 million from its capital investment fund, and $1 million from Cumberland County Schools. The county staff also is looking for more money from state and federal funding sources such as USDA and EPA grants and the federal Drinking Water Revolving Fund.
The $258,600 first phase includes getting encroachment agreements, easements, permits, preparing bids and bulk water agreements with PWC. The first phase also includes establishing community meetings to educate the public about the contamination.
Critical in the process is getting residents or customers to sign up early for water services. Early sign-ups for tap fees allow the county to determine the economic feasibility of extending water services. Those signing up early may get a reduced tap fee, according to county staff. Currently, the county plans to get water from PWC and from water tables that are well below the level that current wells get their water. The county states that it will remove all PFAS chemicals from any water it sells to county residents.
Jason Brady covers Cumberland County government for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.