Drinking Water Safety

New Hanover County and the Health Department are committed to the health and safety of New Hanover County residents. In response to GenX in Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s (CFPUA) water stream, the Health Department is actively working to learn more about its health impacts. The department is in regular contact with regulatory agencies and neighboring health departments to obtain the most up-to-date information for residents. In addition, the Health Department is involved in the Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board to help provide guidance to the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on emerging, unregulated contaminants in the environment. More information about the work of this board, as well as information about the Cape Fear River’s water quality is below.

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New Hanover County Health Director Phillip Tarte has been appointed to serve as a member of the North Carolina Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board (SAB). His participation will ensure that New Hanover County residents are kept informed of the board’s actions as it assists the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The board will recommend reviews and evaluations of contaminants released into the environment; act as consultants on DEQ’s determinations to regulate releases of contaminants; assist the agencies in identifying contaminants of concern and helping determine whether the contaminants should be studied further; help evaluate the human health impacts of exposure to hazardous contaminants; and give input to DHHS as the agency that establishes health goals for emerging contaminants. See a list of members and hear meeting recordings here.

Learn more about the priorities of the Science Advisory Board here.


Science Advisory Board Meeting Information

  • December 4, 2017 SAB Meeting
    • Listen to the SAB meeting recording here.
    • View DEQ’s press release announcing the meeting here.
    • View DHHS information in preparation for the meeting here
  • October 23 , 2017 SAB Meeting
    • Listen to the SAB meeting recording here 
    • View Phillip Tarte’s meeting notes here

On August 31, NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released information about additional unregulated compounds in the Cape Fear River. NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)  has informed CFPUA that, after consulting with the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they are unable to establish a health goal for Nafion at this time, due to the fact that no health studies on the effects of Nafion could be identified. However, after reviewing the results, DHHS reiterated their guidance that the public can continue to drink the water.


On July 14, state regulators released a revised health assessment for GenX. In addition to the revised assessment, the NC DHHS has stated that people do not need to stop drinking the water, based on the scientific data they have collected. View the state’s press release here and additional clarification about GenX health risks here. A statement about water quality from DHHS can also be watched here.


On June 16, NC DHHS provided public health officials with the following statement: DHHS is continuing to work with EPA and reviewing all available science to provide partners and the public with the most current health risk information for GenX. This includes continuing to refine and update the health screening level as new information becomes available. As a reminder, health screening levels are non-regulatory, non-enforceable levels that represent the level below which no adverse health effects would be expected. Any changes to health screening levels will be shared with partners as soon as possible. Currently, there is no change in our assessment that health effects are unlikely at the levels detected in the Cape Fear River during 2013-2014.

New Hanover County is working to ensure that the public is kept informed about the presence of GenX in Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s water supply and any impacts it may have on the community. Read the county’s press releases, statements, letters, and meeting notes here.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), in consultation with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), is leading a state investigation into GenX, an unregulated chemical, in the lower Cape Fear River. View the state’s updates about water quality and GenX on the NCDEQ website, as well as their GenX Frequently Asked Questions here.

In addition to GenX, NC DEQ’s Division of Water Resources is monitoring 1,4-dioxane, an emerging contaminant, at locations in the Cape Fear River basin. Learn more about their study here.

On July 14, state regulators released a revised health assessment for GenX. View the state’s press release here, as well as New Hanover County’s statement in response to the results here. Additional clarification from DHHS regarding GenX health risks can be viewed here.


On June 29, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) released information, after examining data from the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry, that cancer rates in New Hanover County are generally similar to statewide rates of cancers. A copy of the summary can be viewed here. DHHS provided this information to answer questions raised about cancer during the ongoing investigation of GenX in the Cape Fear River. New Hanover County Health Director Phillip Tarte made a statement after learning this news, and it can be viewed here.


On June 16, NC DHHS provided public health officials with the following statement: DHHS is continuing to work with EPA and reviewing all available science to provide partners and the public with the most current health risk information for GenX. This includes continuing to refine and update the health screening level as new information becomes available. As a reminder, health screening levels are non-regulatory, non-enforceable levels that represent the level below which no adverse health effects would be expected. Any changes to health screening levels will be shared with partners as soon as possible. Currently, there is no change in our assessment that health effects are unlikely at the levels detected in the Cape Fear River during 2013-2014.

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) serves more than 67,000 water customers in New Hanover County. In response to GenX in CFPUA’s water supply, the authority has been working to identify and quantify unregulated contaminants in their source water.

CFPUA is sampling treated water weekly from their Sweeney Water Treatment Plant to ensure levels of GenX continue to decrease, and the results of sampling are released to the public weekly. View news updates, FAQs, and additional drinking water information on CFPUA’s website.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for drinking water quality and regulates drinking water safety. Below are two helpful links with information about the EPA and drinking water requirements and safety:

The New Hanover County Health Department wants to ensure residents are informed about well water safety and permitting. A list of frequently asked questions can be viewed here.

Information about well applications and permits can be viewed here.

For health-related questions, the public can call the New Hanover County Health Department at 910-798-6500.

For questions specific to drinking water quality in New Hanover County, the public can contact CFPUA through their website or call 910-332-6550. In addition, the state and federal regulators of drinking water can be contacted at the following numbers:

  • NC Department of Environmental Quality: 1-877-623-6748
    • View the NCDEQ website for updates on their GenX investigation
  • US Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office: 1-800-241-1754
Health: 2029 S. 17th Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-6500 • Fax 910-341-4146 • Medical Records Fax 910-772-7805
Environmental Health: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 140 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-6667 • Fax 910-798-7815