New PFAS regulations proposed by the federal government are expected to increase costs for Fayetteville Public Works Commission customers, interim PWC CEO Mick Noland said at a PWC meeting Wednesday.
Earlier this month, the federal Environmental Protection Agency proposed the nation’s first public drinking water standards for PFAS, an acronym for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, CityView reported. The standards would substantially decrease the amount of the so-called “forever chemicals” allowed in public drinking water.
Various PFAS chemicals, including GenX, have been manufactured at Chemours’ Fayetteville Works plant in Bladen County for decades, dating to when it was operated by DuPont, the company that spun off Chemours in 2015.
Noland said at Wednesday’s meeting that in order to comply with the regulations, if they are ultimately adopted by the EPA, PWC will need to spend $73 million to install new water treatment technology. To maintain the treatment, it will cost PWC $12 million annually.
Those costs, Noland said, would eventually trickle down to customers in the form of rate increases.
“The customer is going to have to pay for this,” Noland said.
Noland said the figures are in “today’s dollars” as inflationary pressures could increase the costs even higher by the time the EPA would enforce the regulations, which Noland estimated to be later this year or early 2024.
“They're estimating there's probably about 6,000 utilities nationwide who will have to construct something in order to comply with this,” Noland said. “Everybody will be lining up to try to get these designed and constructed and built.”
When asked by PWC Treasurer Chris Davis, Noland said there are some federal funds available through the bipartisan infrastructure legislation passed by Congress last year, but more funding will be needed to offset the costs, Noland said.
“If these utilities don’t get federal assistance to help out with this, it’s going to be a very, very tough, very tough road to travel,” Noland said.
“There’s going to have to be more done because it is such a widespread problem throughout the United States, and the cost to achieve these results is going to be substantial,” Noland continued.
Any increase in rates because of PFAS regulations won’t be immediate. Noland said water utilities are expected to be given a three-year period to meet the new standards, if they are adopted by the EPA.
Any costs borne by customers because of these regulations would be on top of recent rate increases adopted by the PWC board. Those new rates, which will be effective in May, will increase monthly costs by nearly $13 for the typical PWC customer, CityView reported.