CFPUA completes source water protection plan along 160 miles of watershed

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CFPUA
CFPUA (Photo: Hannah Patrick/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A years-long effort by CFPUA staff has culminated in the 2020 Source Water Risk and Resiliency Plan, a detailed summary of sites with the potential to affect water quality at the region’s primary drinking water source: the intakes on the Cape Fear River.

Work on the Source Water Risk and Resiliency Plan (SWRRP) started in response to 2014’s North Carolina House Bill 894: An Act to Improve Source Water Protection. Spurred in part by a 2013 coal ash spill into North Carolina’s Dan River, the law directed utilities to open lines of communication with upstream industries and dischargers.

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By designating contacts between utilities and potential contaminant sources, the legislation aims to enable faster, more-effective response to water emergencies.

The law recommended looking at dischargers within just a few miles of water intake sites, but CFPUA’s Public and Environmental Policy Department (PEP), which developed the SWRRP, went several steps further.

CFPUA’s final plan identifies more than 150 potential contaminant sources – from livestock operations to Chemours – along 160 linear miles of the Cape Fear River’s watershed. Extending the scope also brings the plan into compliance with 2018’s America’s Water Infrastructure Act, which directs utilities to include all known contaminant sources in their SWRRPs.



              View the interactive SWRRP map here.

Expanding the focus area allowed CFPUA’s SWRRP to include known past dischargers, including Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility.

“As the utility with the southernmost intake on the Cape Fear River, CFPUA’s water supply can be impacted by hundreds of upriver contaminant sources,” CFPUA Environmental Management Director Beth Eckert said. “Given what we already know about emerging contaminants like PFAS and 1,4-dioxane originating upriver, we didn’t want to limit this study to a 10-mile radius.”

CFPUA’s plan addresses another chronic threat not included in the legislation: the impacts of climate change.

“Every water provider – and especially those of us located in sensitive coastal communities – will have to contend with challenges like sea-level rise, saltwater intrusion, and more intense droughts and storms,” PEP Director Lindsey Hallock said. “We want to plan for those long-term threats with the same level of effort we would an industrial spill or contamination event.”

You can read CFPUA’s SWRRP at https://arcg.is/1CryiP.