Cape Fear River to have access to part $10 billion for clean water

NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — After decades of drinking water polluted with GenX and other forever chemicals, local and state leaders say a new grant could mean cleaner water much sooner that anticipated.

The new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocates $10 billion to clean water across the U.S. It’s the single largest investment in water the federal government has ever made.

In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services discovered large amounts of GenX released from the Chemours chemical plant into the Cape Fear River and drinking water.

“(It’s) a class of toxic compound called forever chemicals because they cannot be broken down by natural processes,” said Cape Fear River Keeper, Kemp Burdette.

As Chemours worked to lessen the release of chemicals, scientists found the pollution was worse than they originally thought.

Burdette continued, “From upstream water treatment plants, firefighting activities, to secondary industrial users, to consumer products.”

The chemical affects many people living along the Cape Fear River Basin, especially those unable to by bottled water and filters.

“300,000 residents of the Cape Fear community have been exposed to PFAS contaminated drinking water due to Chemours and its operations along the Cape Fear River,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo explained.

Now that the Infrastructure Law has allocated $10 billion to clean water nationwide, Wilmington will have access to a portion of the funds. This comes as the city continues it’s lawsuit against Chemours and finishes paying for a new water filtration system, which could cost up to $45 million.

“We’re in the process of suing for those improvements for over $40 million,” said Saffo. “And hopefully the federal government’s going to be putting out for good drinking water will be used to offset those costs.”

Though it’s too early to know exactly how much of the $10 billion will go to cleaning up the Cape Fear, EPA Director Michael Reagan worked as North Carolina’s Environmental Secretary for years. He will help allocate the money to each state.

“I am sure that North Carolina and the treatment of this issue will get it’s full due because he is in charge of championing it,” said State Representative Deb Butler.

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority could finish it’s new granulated carbon filtration system by June 2022. According to local leaders, the new system will by able to remove more than 90 percent of forever chemicals from drinking water.

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