Pittsboro water filtration project moving ahead despite delays


PITTSBORO — Pittsboro residents are one step closer to having access to clean drinking water via the town’s Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filter project.

At Monday’s board meeting, town commissioners heard an update on progress with the GAC system from Reed Barton, an associate environmental engineer with CDM Smith.

The GAC system is the first phase of addressing PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, contamination in the town’s drinking water. The town has faced delays in getting the system online; most recently, Pittsboro had hoped to activate the system in early August but had to postpone because the construction crew encountered an unexpected rock bed while finalizing underground pipe installation.

Barton said at Monday’s meeting that supply chain issues and a holdup in the construction schedule due to late delivery of certain key components — like the second of two pumps — have contributed to a delay in activating the filtration system, putting the town a month behind schedule.

In 2021, the treatment goal was a removal of at least 90% of all PFAS from the filtered supply.

The EPA updated to a temporary health advisory level (HAL) for PFOA and PFOS, chemicals within the PFAS family, in June. The updated levels are .0004 ppt for PFOA and .002 ppt for PFOS, a significant decrease from the previous level of 70 ppt for both chemicals combined.

Barton said the EPA is expected to set a maximum contamination level of how much PFAS can be in drinking water, and will have a draft by the end of 2022.

“So I think it’s a wait-and-see-what-they-do [situation],” Barton said. “But hopefully in the next couple of months, we’ll find out what the regulatory limit for PFOS and PFOA are, and we can evaluate what the system can do in terms of that new regulation.”

The GAC system was in operation for the first time on Monday for one hour, and was expected to be put into continuous operation by Wednesday, pending final checks. Barton said the system will initially be limited to 1 million gallons a day — though it’s intended to be a 1.5 million gallons a day system — while the town waits for the installation of the second pump.

Barton estimates that homeowners in town will have purified water a day after the system goes online.

Town Manager Chris Kennedy also said the town had hoped to cease the partnership with Chatham Marketplace to provide clean drinking water to residents by Labor Day to coincide with the GAC system going online. The town now plans to run the program until Oct. 1, he said.

Other business

• Commissioners also approved Development Associates as the firm that will help recruit a new town manager and a $25,000 line item increase to the town’s budget for the contracted services. On Thursday, the board will meet at 3 p.m. to review the candidate for interim manager, though a location had not yet been finalized by Tuesday.

• The board heard an informational update from Billy Williams, the president of the Chatham 9/11 First Responders Memorial Foundation, on the memorial, which broke ground in 2014.

In his update, Williams asked commissioners to donate to the foundation, emphasizing the work of volunteers in establishing the memorial. Over the last four to five years, he said the foundation has asked Pittsboro, Siler City and Chatham County to budget $1,500 each to assist in supporting the memorial, but is asking for $2,000 each this year.

“The problem is, which y’all know, everything’s going up fast and that’s not going to cover all our stuff,” he said. “And right now we have no other income other than donations.”

The memorial will also have a service on Sept. 10 in commemoration of 9/11, and a survivor will speak at the event.

• After some discussion and disagreement among commissioners with regard to lighting standards, the board approved three minor deviations to Northwood Landing, a multi-use planned development. The other deviations revolved around inconsistencies with parking space requirements and vehicular use area screening.

• The board also approved a resolution to establish a capital project budget for the merger of utility systems between the town of Pittsboro and city of Sanford of $75,000. Commissioners also approved a contract between consulting firm Freese and Nichols Inc. (FNI) and the town; some of their services will include data development, systems evaluation and a comprehensive review of rates. The firm had previously prepared a scope of work for the potential utility merger.

The board’s next regular session will be at 7 p.m. on Sept. 12 at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center in Pittsboro.

Reporter Maydha Devarajan can be reached at mdevarajan@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @maydhadevarajan.

Pittsboro, water, filtration, GAC, commissioners