On Wednesday, April 10, the US Environmental Protection Agency implemented  new regulatory compliance rules for drinking water in municipal water systems, such as Greensboro’s, and those rules will eventually affect the city’s water filtration practices since there are six new substances to guard against.

The six per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances – also known as “PFAS” and “forever chemicals” – were cited under new federal regulations based on a determination by the EPA that these chemicals could negatively affect human health after very long periods of exposure.

A Wednesday, April 10 press release from the city states, “The new regulatory compliance rule affects up to 6,000 water utilities nationwide, including the City of Greensboro. To date, the City has not detected two … of the six under the new rule. The City’s drinking water has met and continues to meet or surpass all state and federal standards.”

The quality of drinking water in America in general has been a source of major discussion in recent years due to alarming high-profile problems in municipal water systems in Jackson, Mississippi; Baltimore, Maryland; and Flint, Michigan.

Also, a widely publicized Consumer Reports article earlier this year kicked off a lot of discussion by stressing the health threats of municipal systems drinking as well as drinking bottled water – where plastic particles from the bottle can leach into the water.

Seemingly, right now the only completely safe water consumption option left for drinking water is letting it drip directly into your mouth  off of the roof of an underground cavern deep in a cave in Fiji.

That’s impractical for most people so the City of Greensboro is making improvements in its filtration system.

In September 2024, the Greensboro City Council plans to approve a contract to design and install a Granular Activated Carbon system at the Mitchell Water Treatment Plant in order to reduce contaminants to below the maximum allowed contaminant levels..

The filtration enhancement is one part of a larger plant upgrade that’s estimated to cost about $170 million.

The Activated Carbon treatment improvements make up roughly a third of that $170 million cost.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are members of the PFAS chemical group. The EPA’s new individual maximum contaminant levels of four parts per trillion were established for both. The other four – PFHxS, PFNA, PFBS, and HFPO-DA – have been given a Hazard Index of 1.0.

Greensboro leaders stated Wednesday that the city is “committed to protecting public health and has proactively monitored for PFOS and PFOA since 2014.”

Here are some of the steps Greensboro has taken to address water contaminant concerns over the last decade…

  • Completed a watershed study to determine sources
  • Changed source water when called for
  • Used Powdered Activated Carbon systems to minimize levels in drinking water
  • Worked with experts to determine the appropriate technological solutions to issues at filtration plants to reduce contaminant levels
  • Conducted bi-monthly analyses to evaluate levels in the city’s source water.