PITTSBORO — A pilot test of various combinations of equipment to remove unregulated chemicals from the water at the town of Pittsboro’s water treatment facility will likely be extended about six …
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PITTSBORO — A pilot test of various combinations of equipment to remove unregulated chemicals from the water at the town of Pittsboro’s water treatment facility will likely be extended about six months to gather more data.
Studies over the past five years have shown the presence of unregulated chemicals — such as 1,4 Dioxane and PFAS, or Perfluoroalkyl substances — in the Haw River at levels beyond state and federal recommendations. The chemicals flow into the Haw from dischargers upstream, and Pittsboro officials have been working to put pressure on state regulators to reduce the flow from dischargers while focusing on ways to lower the levels of the chemicals in its drinking water.
Pittsboro initially installed special carbon filters which have been able to reduce the amount of chemicals in the water by about 40%. Pittsboro then contracted with CDM Smith, an engineering and construction company which provides solutions in water and other arenas for government and private clients, two years ago to come up with recommendations for both expansion of the water treatment plant as well as options for new equipment that may reduce the amount of unregulated chemicals in the water.
CDM’s testing of four different equipment configurations at the town’s water plant has been ongoing for the past six months. But at a presentation to the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners on Monday, the CDM team requested an additional six months to collect additional data. Part of the reason for the extension is the CDM has been finding information in the data that is new.
“Some of the data coming out of here is showing real advancements in this technology,” Reed Barton, an associate with CDM Smith, told commissioners. “The science behind PFAS is very new and the data is showing things that people across the country in water treatment should be seeing.”
Barton believes that the use of ultraviolet rays or UV in combination with other technologies is having a significant impact. He said the use of UV prior to entering the other pieces of equipment may improve the amount of time the mediums — the different substances in the equipment that cleans the chemicals — can be used, possibly reducing the cost for annual upkeep of the equipment. But Barton said that is why he wants to continue with the study to be sure.
“The new knowledge is that UV oxidizes PFAS and is likely oxidizing other items,” Barton said. “We’re definitely speculating here, but it’s a good thing because it lowers your cost of operating. It’s very hard for us to predict what the data is going to do. That’s why we need to let the pilot run, so we can identify which (combination of equipment) would be best for Pittsboro.”
The board also suggested having a work session to dive into the data in depth and review the draft report when it’s available. The date of that session has not yet been determined.
Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.