While many Guilford County citizens were running around stores this week collecting last minute gifts for friends and family, groundwater inspectors from the Guilford County Division of Public Health were running around neighborhoods in west Greensboro collecting well water samples to see if they’re contaminated – and, if so, to discover how much contaminant those samples contain.

Guilford County Assistant Health Director Ken Carter oversees groundwater safety for the county and he said that, on Tuesday, Dec. 18, and Wednesday, Dec. 19, county inspectors were busy drawing well water from neighborhoods near the intersection of Fleming Road and Bryan Boulevard as well as in the Horse Pen Creek Road area.

“We’re testing 35 wells,” he said. “We’re vetting the results and we should hear back in about three weeks.”

The neighborhoods the county is testing are in Greensboro but are ones on well water rather than the city’s water system.

Carter said the tests are the results of the recent publicized contamination issue in the city’s water supply.

Contaminants known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) were found in the city’s water system, and Guilford County’s Division of Public Health has been implementing a multistage plan to address well water quality concerns in some areas where contamination is considered a possibility.

This week’s well water sample collection comes several weeks after a community meeting that Guilford County held to inform residents of potential issues as well as to answer questions and get input.

Carter said the county is sending the samples to a private lab in Columbia, South Carolina.  He added that his department will get those results back in mid-January, assess the findings and then report back to the community – likely in early February.  According to Carter, the well water study is connected to the city’s water issues since there’s concern that streams in the tested area are feeding pollutants into the city’s water system, which may be why the city is having problems with PFAS levels.

The City of Greensboro has high quality water; however, in recent years the city has been battling PFAS levels. PFAS are chemicals used in a variety of manufacturing processes.  They are also a component of the foam used to fight fires.  The EPA has issued a non-regulatory health advisory on the level of PFAS that is acceptable in a municipal water supply of 70 parts per trillion and Greensboro has at times exceeded that level.  Tests have shown the area near where the county is now testing has a higher than acceptable concentration of PFAS.

In mid-November, City of Greensboro Water Resources Department Director Steven Drew addressed the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, seeking the county’s help in the effort to keep the city’s water clean and healthy.

“These are bad actors that are in the environment,” Drew told the commissioners at that time.

Drew said Greensboro did what it was required to do to address the problem and took additional steps as well.  The city notified the state and citizens of the issue and engaged in water filtration efforts to reduce PFAS level.

The recent testing by Guilford County is an effort to help the city and the county identify the source or sources of the contamination.