Tag Archives: Water Quality

PFAS and PFOA “Forever Chemicals:” What to Know for Charlotte

PFAS and PFOA have gained national attention as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down naturally in the environment or in the human body. They are part of a family of thousands prevalent compounds that have been used for decades and still used in products like waterproof materials, non-stick pans, and fast food wrappers.

Due to emerging and established health risks, PFAS and PFOA are becoming more regulated and decreasing in industrial uses. However, many regions still face challenges with upstream industrial use of PFAS and PFOA chemicals (See more under North Carolina resources below). You may hear about them in the news and from municipalities working to address any concerns in their areas.

Fortunately, our region in Charlotte-Mecklenburg has not had these same concerns with PFAS and PFOA in drinking water. At this time, PFAS/PFOA are considered unregulated contaminants by the federal government, but the EPA is expected to announce the first Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for PFAS in spring 2023.

MCLs establish a maximum level for which a contaminant can be present in drinking water and require water service providers to not exceed that level, as per the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), which means that these compounds will be regulated. Another thing to note is that an MCL is a long-term exposure level – 70 years of drinking 2.5 liters of water daily with PFOA or PFOS at the MCL level.

Charlotte Water proactively and voluntarily monitors for more than 70 per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals quarterly and meets or exceeds all drinking water standards. Monitoring results (available on our unregulated contaminants page) demonstrate very low levels of PFAS/PFOA, with either undetectable levels of PFAS or levels of PFAS barely above the detection limit. All detections are within the anticipated 4ppt MCL. To learn more about your water quality, please visit Charlotte Water’s Water Quality Webpages. Additional resources available below.

Charlotte Water Resources:

EPA Resources:

 Other Resources:

How Charlotte Water Repairs Water Pipe Leaks

With more than 4,500 miles of drinking water pipe, there is always something to fix. Customers can help by calling 311 or 704-336-7600 when they see or suspect a water leak or water main break. Even after the 311 Call Center is closed customers can say or select ‘water emergency’ to reach our dispatchers 24/7.

Charlotte Water prioritizes leaks so that crews repair emergency leaks first.

The Numbers
• 2,000+ repairs per year. Most are service line repairs (between the water main and meter box).
• There are multiple pipes under major roads (serving immediate areas and zip codes).
• Less than 10% of water pipe infrastructure is over 50 years due to proactive pipe replacement efforts.

Water Pipe Repair Step-By-Step

CLTWater Field Technician installing a flag to mark the leak location.

Investigate

Within hours, a field technician investigates and attempts to repair if it is an easy fix. If it is a leak that requires a construction crew, the technician prioritizes the leak based on severity. Many repairs require coordination with other departments or towns to minimize the impact on customers or drivers.

Staff spray painting where underground   utilities are located before digging begins.

Locate

Call NC811 to have other utilities spray paint where their pipes / cables are before digging begins. This can take hours.







Staff turning water off to the leaking water pipe to maintain water to other portions of the neighborhood.

Isolate

Crews turn valves to stop water flowing through the leaking pipe. Crews may attempt to repair the pipe while keeping water in service for customers. Cones and barriers are set up to protect workers.

Excavate

Crews will uncover the pipe to make repairs or replace a section of the pipe. Crews will hand-dig portions to reduce the chance of damaging underground infrastructure.

Restore Water Service

Fire hydrants flow to test water quality before restoring water service to customers.









picture of a crew tamping soil before a compaction test during the phase to rebuild a road after a water leak underground.

Repave and Reopen

Crews will backfill soil into the trench, test compaction, and then repave the road.

Restoration

Straw is placed over dirt if the repair is in a yard. A separate crew or contractor will return several days or weeks later to complete restoration efforts.


What other factors may extend the time between reporting a water leak and the repair?

Crews attempt to repair leaks without a water outage when possible and if there is time will work on solutions to minimize the outage.

Challenges underground

  • Other utilities (fiber, storm water pipes) conflict with the repair and need to be replaced or moved including a large excavation area.
  • Pipe requires full replacement including cutting it out and inserting a new pipe.
  • Repaving depends on the weather. Air temperature is required to be a minimum of 40 degrees and rising in order to properly install asphalt.


Reducing impact on customers

  • Coordinating with Charlotte Department of Transportation, North Carolina Department of Transportation, and/or towns to plan the repair to minimize detours during high traffic times.
  • Installing new valves to minimize the number of customers affected by a water outage.
  • Above ground water pipes may be installed to serve customers if the pipe replacement will take several days to complete.

What caused the water main break / leak?

Unfortunately, since water main breaks occur underground, in most cases we can only speculate as to how exactly the pipe broke. Here are some factors:

  • Construction crews hitting mains while digging for other projects.
  •  Call 811 before you dig to locate the pipes
  • Temperature changes that can cause the soil to expand and contract, putting stress on pipes.
  • Sudden change in water pressure. Quick use of a hydrant to fight a fire or a water main break nearby can cause other pipes to leak.
  • Weak seals or a weakness where two pipes are joined together.
  • Soil conditions (movement, corrosion, extra soil on top pushing down on pipes)

What causes a water main to break?

There are several factors that can cause a pipe to break, including change in temperature, age and external damage.

Who should I call if I see a leak?

If you see or suspect a leak, call 3-1-1 or 704-336-7600 so that Charlotte Water can quickly dispatch a crew to the location. Our dispatchers are working 24/7 so even after CharMeck 311 is closed you can say or select water emergency after the audio greeting to reach our staff.

Learn more at

“Every day, Charlotte Water routinely repairs and maintains water and sewer pipes across our entire service area,” says Charlotte Water Director Angela Charles. “It’s important that we are doing all that we can to keep customers’ trust in our ability to provide clean, safe and reliable water service to the Charlotte region.”

To stay up to date on the most recent events and announcements, follow Charlotte Water on Twitter @CLTWater. For more information on other pipe replacement and restoration projects, visit us at CharlotteWater.org.

Central Avenue Repair Update

Last month on February 7, Crews responded to a wastewater overflow and found a leaking water pipe under the railroad crossing on Central Avenue. Below is an overview of key steps required to complete the work and reopen the road.

Completed steps

•            Stopped a wastewater overflow and found a leaking water main that contributed to the overflow and was not showing above ground.

•            Installed a water valve to maintain service to customers.

•            Turned off leaking portion of the water pipe.

•            Inspected drinking water, wastewater pipes and storm drains to identify all necessary repairs.

•            Installed another valve for pipe installation process.

•            Installed new water pipes to maintain service long-term.

•            Disconnect the leaking pipe from the water system.

•            Excavate and replace an old brick manhole with a new precast concrete manhole.

Ongoing Steps

•            Add a new lining in wastewater pipes under railroad easement at a future date.

•            Excavate and repair storm drain pipes under railroad crossing. Additional work required at a later date.

•            Rebuild and reopen the road.

All of this while maintaining railroad for daily use by CSX. These repairs require extensive coordination with CSX and Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT). The goal is to maintain water service and access to businesses during the repair effort. Local traffic can drive around signs to access open businesses. Crews estimate completing the work around March 17th.

The Value of Water

Charlotte Water participated in the US Water Alliance’s national awareness campaign called Imagine a Day Without Water by producing a series of short videos that highlight the value of water in our region and the collaboration needed to plan for things like droughts, emergencies and even the extensive growth happening in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Our region has unique shared water resources, especially the vast network of lakes that are used for drinking water, energy and recreation.

We are grateful for the hard work of so many regional stakeholders that protect this precious resource. Visit our YouTube playlist, The Value of Water, to watch the full series, with the introductory video below.