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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

A Word About Our Water

Steve Hosmer, H2GO Commissioner, Talks about GenX and the Condition of Our Water Today  

Introduction by Jan Morgan-Swegle

There are so many beautiful things about this area in which we live.  There are beautiful housing developments filled with friendly people from all over the country,  lush, green plant life that flowers into amazing colors and varieties and the Cape Fear River at our fingertips.  Beautiful water—well, beautiful on the surface anyway.

In 2017, we found that beneath the surface, GenX was lurking in our water.  GenX is in a class of chemicals named PFAS. These chemicals are found in household products and known to be toxic. This class of chemicals doesn’t break down, they are “persistent” in the environment and can contaminate water.

All of a sudden, we, as Brunswick County residents were asking questions concerning the safety of our water.  How did the chemicals get in the water?  Who was responsible?  What were the long-term health concerns?  Steve Hosmer, a Compass Pointe resident, took on the challenge of helping to make our water clean and safe.  He ran for election to the Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer (H2GO) Commission and won a spot on the board on November 5, 2019.

Much has changed since 2017 and I asked Steve to talk about the condition of our water resources now and what residents need to do to ensure we have safe water in the future.

His responses are below.

High Residential Growth Means High Water Demand

As you probably know, Brunswick County residential development is one of the best success stories in the entire U.S.  But with that growth, comes a corresponding growth in the demand for water. Water to drink, water to bathe in, water to wash clothes in, wash cars with, and water for irrigation.

There are two water suppliers in Brunswick County:

Brunswick County Public Utilities  and  Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer (H2GO)

Let’s talk about Brunswick County Public Utilities first.

 Keeping Ahead of Demand

In order to keep ahead of rapidly growing demand, Brunswick County Public Utilities began planning for a water treatment plant expansion prior to 2017.  The county plan was to increase capacity from 24 MGD (million gallons per day) to 36 MGD (million gallons per day).  Then, in June of 2017, the Wilmington Star News published its game changing article about GenX in the Cape Fear River.  Since Brunswick County Public Utilities gets all its drinking and irrigation water from the river, that was extremely bad news for the County and its citizens.

 Making Brunswick County Water Safer to Drink

In order to drastically reduce emerging contaminants like GenX in residential drinking water, Brunswick County’s engineering consultant recommended that the county install a reverse osmosis plant to go along with the expansion of the regular filtration plant in order to insure safe drinking water for its residents.  The purpose of the Reverse Osmosis plant is to remove the majority of the industrial contaminants and other contaminants not removed by regular filtration methods.

That Made Still More Expansion Necessary to Make the Water Safer

Unfortunately, reverse osmosis requires “wash water” to wash contaminants off the reverse osmosis filter screens and carry those contaminants away.  That wash water, which carries a higher concentration of industrial contaminants, is then dumped back into the local waterways (rivers).  In order to have enough water to send wash water back into the river, Brunswick County Public Utilities had to increase its regular plant expansion from 36 MGD to 45 MGD, almost twice its previous capacity.  That made the plant expansion more expensive than originally planned.  But, the county held its water rates steady for as long as it could.

Emerging Contaminant Reduction Schedule in Our Area

  • January, 2022 – Brunswick County Public Utilities finally was forced to raise water rates to service the debt associated with ongoing construction of its expanded and improved water treatment facilities.
  • November, 2022 – Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (serving New Hanover County) began using their new, Granular Activated Carbon filtration system to remove emerging contaminants like Genx.
  • May, 2023 – Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer (H2GO) began drawing on aquifer water which has no industrial contaminants to begin with.

Looking ahead –

  • End of 2023 – Brunswick County Public Utilities currently projects their Reverse Osmosis plant to go online by late this year. The County will be the third nearby water utility to go online with a solution to provide clean water to its customers.  For more information on the Brunswick County Public Utilities reverse-osmosis project:


Interestingly, each of the three water utilities has chosen a different method to provide clean drinking water to its customers.

Why Did Brunswick County Public Utilities Raise Water Rates Before Plant Completion?

By January 1st of 2022, the clock had already started ticking on the financing payback for the money that the county obtained to expand their water treatment plant and to add reverse osmosis.  The county was forced to raise water rates to cover those costs at the start of 2022 and Brunswick County wholesale customers along with county residents have been paying higher rates since then.

Who Is Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer (H2GO)? Where Do They Fit?

Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer (H2GO) provides water (and Sewer) services in the Northeast quadrant of Brunswick County to approximately 40,000 people in a region not currently serviced by Brunswick County Public Utilities.  H2GO customers include residents of Belville, Leland and Navassa, along with residents of selected unincorporated areas of Brunswick County including Compass Pointe.

How Did Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer (H2GO) Solve The Emerging Contaminant Problem?

This past spring, H2GO completed a promised aquifer-sourced, reverse osmosis-based water supply system.  Based on previous studies of two deep-water aquifers by water geologists, commissioners and staff of H2GO had anticipated no industrial contaminants in the water from this system. It turns out that they were right. There are no industrial contaminants to begin with in the deep aquifers from which H2GO draws its water.  Testing after the new system was functioning proved that.  Not only has H2GO been able to maintain its low water rates now that it no longer needs to buy water from Brunswick County for distribution to H2GO customers; but, H2GO now provides the cleanest, contaminant-free water available to county residents and other nearby residents.

If H2GO’s Aquifer Water Is So Clean, Then Why Does It Need to be Filtered with Reverse Osmosis?

H2GO needs to filter out low levels of salt commonly found in wells near the ocean.  Reverse Osmosis is a long-established and accepted method to do that.

So, What Does All This This Mean for H2GO Customers?

If you are an H2GO customer, you can now safely drink contaminant-free water directly out of your taps.

And What Does All This Mean for Brunswick County Public Utilities Water Customers?

Because the Brunswick County Public Utility reverse osmosis system is not yet complete, County water customers, unfortunately, still have significant levels of PFAS (including GenX) … 1,4 Dioxane … and other industrial contaminants in their water.  Check the Brunswick County website for the latest test results (

Based on the measurable levels of those contaminants, county residents who get their water from Brunswick County Public Utilities instead of H2GO may well want to install an under-the-sink reverse osmosis system or buy bottled spring water for drinking and cooking until the new, Brunswick County Public Utilities reverse osmosis plant is put into operation.

About the author: Steve Hosmer is currently a Commissioner at Brunswick County Water and Sewer (H2GO) Under his watch, H2GO delivered on his three campaign promises of cheaper, cleaner and faster:

  • cheaper rates
  • cleaner water
  • faster completion

for 40,000 Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer (H2GO) customers in Brunswick County.


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About the Contributor
Jan Morgan-Swegle
Jan Morgan-Swegle is the Editor of Cape Fear Voices.  She has been writing for CFV for almost 3 years.  She is originally from the Cleveland area and moved down to Leland 12 years ago.  She and her husband, Tony, and their dog, Dixie, enjoy sitting on the lanai listening to music and sharing wine (Dixie likes white wine but only gets two finger tips full!!)  They have 3 children and 9 grandchildren living in Cleveland, Ohio,  Charlotte, North Carolina and Lakeland, Florida.

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    Daniel NeizmikSep 3, 2023 at 8:30 am

    Thank you for this very informative article and for sharing what you’ve learned about H2GO’s reverse osmosis system. Everyone should read this. This should dispel any skepticism that people may still have about local drinking water. We are H2GO customers as well and have been using water from the tap since July. Thanks for your great work here!
    Dan Neizmik

    • A

      adviserSep 3, 2023 at 9:00 am

      The thanks really goes to Steve Hosmer. He has worked tirelessly to ensure we have good, clean water. I’m glad you liked the story my dear.