Posted by Brighton McConnell | Oct 6, 2022 | Health, Local Government
The Town of Pittsboro invested heavily in a granular activated carbon filter system, or GAC filter, to try lowering some of the forever chemicals that are not yet regulated. After more than one month of being operational, the local government has shared some test results to highlight the system.
Pittsboro commissioned samples to be taken on August 30 from the Haw River — the town’s water source, which has historically had its water quality challenged by chemicals or contaminants floating to the community from upstream. The goal of the GAC system is to reduce the amount of perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in the drinking water. They are man-made chemicals that rarely break down in the environment, have no federal regulation and have unclear health effects.
Pittsboro Public Information Officer Colby Sawyer spoke to 97.9 The Hill in August as the town installed the GAC filter and generally described the new process as water enters the town’s treatment facility.
“It operates just like a very large BRITA filter,” he said. “As the water flows through the filter, PFAS and PFOA substances are absorbed into the carbon, and the water that comes through is free of those substances to go into processing for the eventual use [of the community.]”
Sawyer said the town hopes the GAC system will filter out will filter out 90 percent of these PFAS chemicals in Pittsboro’s water, with those numbers being reflected in the early test results. While the first samples fell short of the town’s benchmark, ranging between 85 to 88 percent reduced, the tested samples shared on Tuesday far exceeded it, with 95 through 99 percent reduction rates.
Initial results from the water analysis report conducted by the Town of Pittsboro to reflect its GAC system’s effectiveness, with 1 ng/L roughly equaling 1 part per trillion. This table was shared on September 16, 2022.
Results from the water analysis report conducted by the Town of Pittsboro to reflect its GAC system’s effectiveness, with 1 ng/L roughly equaling 1 part per trillion. This table was shared on October 4, 2022.
The system came with a $3.2 million price tag — which is around one third of Pittsboro’s annual operating budget. Mayor Cindy Perry told 97.9 The Hill in September that while it was a hefty amount, the system’s installation was “a big moment” and the town is expected to replenish those reserves with funding from recent federal laws, like the Biden administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“There are certain requirements to have funds in reserve for emergency situations,” said Perry. “This was one of those, but from my understanding, the money that was dispersed to create this GAC system will be reimbursed through some of the [federal] infrastructure funding that we will be receiving [soon.]”
The installation and operation of the GAC filter, however, does not mean that Pittsboro’s water quality is complete fixed. Despite the high percentage of reduction, the town’s samples still show parts per trillion of the PFAS remain. While the Environmental Protection Agency has not issued federal requirements for such chemicals in drinking water, the department did share interim health advisory levels in June with recommendations for safe levels. For PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, that is 0.004 parts per trillion. For PFOS, or perfluorooctane sulfonate, the advisory is set at 0.02 parts per trillion.
Another water quality issue for Pittsboro also remains. Leaks of 1.4 Dioxane, a human-made carcinogen, have come from Greensboro upstream and affected Pittsboro’s water from the Haw River several times in the last two years. The town is searching for a response, both in terms of legal action and water treatment, but Sawyer said more will be needed besides the GAC filter.
“This system will not remove the 1.4 Dioxane in its entirety,” he said. “So, we’re looking at other systems, procedures, processes now that we could follow to work on reducing the 1.4 Dioxane as well.”
Pittsboro’s water quality reports can be found on the town website. Health advisories from the EPA can be found here.
Photo via the Chatham News + Record.
Chapelboro.com does not charge subscription fees, and you can directly support our efforts in local journalism here. Want more of what you see on Chapelboro? Let us bring free local news and community information to you by signing up for our biweekly newsletter.
Chapelboro.com and WCHL, equal opportunity employers, are dedicated to providing broad outreach regarding job vacancies at the station. We seek the help of local organizations in referring qualified applicants to our station. Organizations that wish to receive our vacancy information should contact WCHL by calling (919) 933-4165.
© Chapelboro WCHL University Place 201 South Estes Drive, Suite C6a Chapel Hill, NC 27514
© Copyright 2022 Chapelboro.com. All rights reserved.