On Wednesday, April 25th, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) ran regularly scheduled sampling tests at its Richardson Nano Groundwater Treatment Plant in northern New Hanover County. Those tests, which are performed numerous times each day, revealed increased levels of fluoride in the plant’s distribution system, due to an apparent overnight dosing system malfunction.
CFPUA immediately notified the State of North Carolina, New Hanover County Health Department, and New Hanover County Schools, as well as the public. Staff were dispatched to flush out the groundwater system and run further samples aimed at identifying the extent of the affected area. The authority’s rapid response was effective, and within hours the affected area’s samplings returned to normal levels.
According to CFPUA around 11,000 connections were affected within a groundwater system, which services about 29,500 residents. Due to low pressures in certain areas resulting from flushing activities, close to 6,000 customers received a ‘Precautionary Boil Water Advisory’ from the authority as crews worked to correct the issue. That advisory was lifted Thursday morning.
CFPUA Board Chairman Mike Brown said, “This is a great example of the redundancy in checks and balances within our protocol identifying a deficiency and malfunction.” He also stated that the erroneous levels were mostly contained at the plant, and due to effective emergency management, the contaminated water was quickly identified, isolated, and flushed.
CFPUA strives to keep fluoride levels at 0.7 milligrams per liter, and acts when those levels read above 2 milligrams per liter. Fluoride is an effective additive for dental health in community drinking water, however, too much exposure to the chemical can lead to potential sickness. For example, individuals may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and paresthesia (abnormal sensation of tingling, numbness, or burning).
Customers are encouraged to contact CFPUA Customer Service at 910-332-6550 with any further questions regarding yesterday’s incident. They may also submit an online customer service request here, on the utility authority’s website.