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Maysville Holds Meeting On PFAS In Well Water

Jared Brumbaugh

The Town of Maysville held a special session Thursday to discuss the high levels of PFAS that were found in the town’s well water and how they plan to address the problem. Recent test results showed PFAS and PFOA contamination above lifetime Health Advisory Levels established by the National Environmental Protection Agency. 

"These are not the same molecules as the ones that have received a lot of attention from the releases from the Chemours plant, these are not Gen X," said Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering with Duke University Lee Ferguson.  He explained via Skype that the source of the contamination is most likely aqueous film forming foam, which was used in firefighting applications, adding that the contamination appears to be isolated to Maysville.

“We can’t say definitively that the firefighting foam is the source of this contamination without doing some additional analysis by high-resolution mass spectrometry.  That work is going on in my laboratory and we’re not finished with it yet," said Ferguson.

According to Ferguson, the contamination of Maysville’s well most likely predates the year 2000, when firefighting foam was phased out.  On Monday, the town switched their roughly 450 customers to Jones County water, which is free of PFAS contaminants.  That news was a relief to Maysville resident Lynne Swanson, who attended the meeting.

“The biggest issue for me is the water I bathe in because of the inhalation.  The water that I drink and cook with, the water I feed my animals without a doubt.  But knowing that we’re getting good water from the Castle Hayne aquifer is a great relief for all those reasons.”

Town officials are working with the University of North Carolina Wilmington to conduct soil testing to locate the cause of the contamination.  Maysville is seeking up to $1 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a carbon filtration system to purify the town’s well water. 

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are unregulated compounds that persist in the environment and the human body. The EPA's Lifetime Health Advisory for PFAS is 70 parts per trillion.  Samples collected May 7 and analyzed by the NC Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Testing Network found a combination of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanoate sulfonic acid (PFOS) were detected at a level of 103 parts per trillion.



On Monday, Maysville switched to Jones County water after high levels of PFAS were detected in the town's well water. Samples analyzed by the NC Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Testing Network found a combination of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanoate sulfonic acid (PFOS) were detected at a level of 103 parts per trillion. PFOS was detected at a concentration greater than 70 ppt, according to a news release from the town. Raw and finished water samples also showed PFOS and the combination of PFOA and PFOS above lifetime Health Advisory Levels established by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.


Maysville's well water is drawn from the Castle Hayne Aquifer from a depth of 300 ft. About 70,000 gallons of water is used by roughly 450 customers each day. Schemata Brown, the Town Manager of Maysville said in the news release that PFAS is considered an unregulated substance and that samples collected May 7 were the first time the town has tested for PFAS.

Maysville is holding a special session on Thursday, June 13 to discuss the high levels of PFAS. The town is working with government experts to pinpoint a source for the PFAS contamination and figure out how to remove it from the municipal well.

According to the EPA, Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals that are very persistent in the environment and in the human body. In addition to drinking water, PFAS can be found in nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, and other commercial household products.


Jared Brumbaugh is the Assistant General Manager for Public Radio East. An Eastern North Carolina native, Jared began his professional public radio career at Public Radio East while he was a student at Craven Community College earning his degree in Electronics Engineering Technology. During his 15+ years at Public Radio East, he has served as an award-winning journalist, producer, and on-air host. When not at the station, Jared enjoys hiking, traveling, and honing his culinary skills.