Reverse osmosis (RO) may sound like something in a sci-fi movie but it is the method the new filtration systems in New Hanover and Brunswick schools will use to decrease contaminants in drinking water.
RO has been found to be the best way to reduce per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Brunswick has the highest levels of PFAS in the country, according to a national report.
The Brunswick County Board of Education is weighing RO station testing at two elementary schools in Leland.
The New Hanover School Board is following suit. The board will spend $142,582 for engineering studies to determine where and how many RO filters will be used.
Stefanie Adams, New Hanover School Board member, said the drinking water is at a crisis state, and it’s imperative that the RO stations are placed in the schools as soon as possible.
Sen. Harper Peterson (D-Hanover) said he wants three service RO systems in each Hanover school and plans to introduce legislation in an effort to make that happen.
There have been several pieces of legislation already introduced that would focus on PFAS contamination but all have stalled because leaders said they want to see what statewide testing turns up.
Emily Donovan, co-founder of Cape Fear, an environmental advocacy group that has focused on PFAS issues, said three RO stations at each school would be ideal.
There are 30 schools in Hanover County affected by PFAS. Quotes for installing three RO stations at each school came in at about $350,000, including a three-year maintenance agreement, Donovan said, according to North Carolina Health News.
Adams said she and her family pay for water service delivery because of the contamination issue, but knows that isn’t an option for everyone.
“For those that have the means to be able to put an RO filter in their home or order bottled water, that’s great, but what about those in our community that can’t,” she said. “What are we doing for them?”