2015 Presentations


Private Wells in North Carolina

Jackie MacDonald Gibson, UNC-Chapel Hill


Filling the Well of Knowledge for Safe Water

Linda Birnbaum, NIEHS



An Overview of the Safe Drinking Water Act as it Pertains to Small Rural Communities

Stig Regli, US EPA


This talk will present an overview of how the Safe Drinking Water Act is being implemented to enhance public health in rural communities. A brief overview will be given on the drinking water regulations that most affect those public water systems serving less than 100 people, their unique compliance challenges, and resources that are available to help meet these challenges. While Federal drinking water regulations pertain to public water systems serving more than 25 people, most of these serve populations less than 100 and much of what is learned at this level may have relevance for smaller unregulated communities. The SDWA also recognizes that the best way to maintain high quality drinking water is to prevent contaminants from reaching drinking water sources. EPA works with States, utilities and other partners to protect sources from contamination. A brief overview of activities in this area will also be discussed.

Water Research Innovation from the NIEHS Superfund: An Integrated Approach for Sustainable Solutions

Heather F. Henry and William A. Suk, NIEHS


The NIEHS Superfund Research Program’s integrated research paradigm is a model for facilitating innovation in water research. SRP’s research advances contribute to the science-based knowledge for prioritizing the most pressing health issues and for launching successful intervention strategies through engineering solutions and effective community engagement. SRP has had a longstanding investment in research resulting in discoveries pertinent to water policy. These advances highlight the implications of exposures to hazardous substances, but also provide an opportunity to develop targeted intervention strategies. The SRP applies engineering innovation as a means to prevent exposures, whether by improved water monitoring technologies or through novel remediation technologies. Future success in preventing harmful exposures will require continued integration of health and environmental disciplines with a focus on sustainability, community compatibility, and with an awareness of the need to develop integrated data systems to enhance technology transfer.


A Brief Perspective on Protection of Drinking Water Supplies in North Carolina

David H. Moreau, UNC-Chapel Hill


North Carolina has a well-documented 125-year history of legislation and administrative actions specifically focused on protection of public water supplies, the past 40 years in partnership with the federal government. State authority has also been established to protect private drinking water wells, but that authority is limited to new wells and occupancy of housing units. There is also a lengthy history of initiatives to protect the quality of all surface and groundwater sources, including those from which both public and private water supplies are drawn. Some possibilities for enhanced protection of private wells are suggested for further discussion.

Water Quality Accomplishments in North Carolina

Secretary Donald R. van der Vaart, NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ)

North Carolina is at its highest-ever rate of compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. This presentation will explain how the state has made dramatic improvements in complying with federal and state drinking water regulations even as federal requirements become more stringent.


Observations of Private Well Water Use and Water Quality in North Carolina

Evan Kane, NC DEQ


Private wells are an important component of North Carolina’s water resource supply and demand picture. This presentation will provide an overview of patterns of private well use in the state, the quality of water obtained from private wells, and how information from the private well program can be used to guide monitoring and protection efforts.

North Carolina’s Private Well Program, Then and Now!

Wilson Mize, NC DHHS


Until recently, private drinking water wells were not permitted and inspected in a majority of the counties throughout North Carolina. This presentation will illustrate the changes within the program in the past 10 years and look at how far we have come in regards to protecting public health and our groundwater resources.


Academic-Government Partnership Increases Awareness of Toxic Metals Levels in Private Wells and Potential Adverse Outcomes for Children

Rebecca Fry, UNC-Chapel Hill

In collaboration with the NC Division of Public Health, we set out to examine statewide arsenic and toxic metals trends in private wells. We worked in partnership to geocode more than 60,000 wells and corresponding well data representing more than a 10-year period. The results highlighted areas of the state where numerous toxic metals, including arsenic, are elevated. The patterns of the elevated levels in private wells corresponded with geologically occurring trends in the metals. The information on private wells was then integrated with data on birth defect prevalence from the North Carolina Birth Defects Monitoring Program. The information suggests an association between higher metals levels in specific counties in North Carolina and birth defects. These data highlight the potential for a significant public health issue in North Carolina related to toxic metals in private wells.

Experience with Ground Water Outreach in Wake County Environmental Services

Michael Orbon, Wake County

Wake County Water Quality has begun reaching out to well owners that have a higher probability of having well contamination to encourage them to have the wells tested for specific contaminants. This is a customer-focused effort that is data-driven and efficiently executed. There are many sites with recorded contamination around the county. These are evaluated by a hydrogeologist, prioritized and then an effort is made to reach out to home owners with specific target contaminants. That way, only some homeowners are asked to test, and they are asked to test only for contaminants that have a higher likelihood of being present. Wake County Water Quality has begun to have some experience with this type of outreach that will be shared.


Community Exclusion, Engagement, and Access to Infrastructure

Mark Dorosin, UNC Center for Civil Rights


The legacy of residential segregation, created and maintained over time through discriminatory land use policies and practices, has led to the physical, political, social, and economic exclusion of many low-wealth, minority communities across North Carolina. Over time, the effects of this discrimination have led to the significant economic underdevelopment and social isolation of these excluded communities. While these communities often suffer from the lack of a range of public services, including road maintenance, adequate police and fire protection, sanitation, street lights, and access to recreation, often the most fundamental challenge is the lack of public water and sewer. This presentation will discuss how effective community advocacy and engagement with local government can help excluded communities secure access to this critical infrastructure.

Aqua NC Provides New, Clean Water Supply for Families With Contaminated Private Wells

Tom Roberts, Aqua North Carolina


Aqua North Carolina, which provides water and wastewater service to more than 250,000 people in 51 counties throughout North Carolina, partners with state and federal governments to deliver quality drinking water to families, many of whom would have no other viable option for water and wastewater service. Aqua worked with the US EPA more than two years ago to expedite connections and provide clean drinking water to approximately 40 homes in a Wake Forest neighborhood on and around Stony Hill Road, where homeowners’ private wells were found to be contaminated by solvents. Aqua’s public water supply wells already served customers in the surrounding subdivisions of Hasentree, Kenwood Reserve and Stony Bend/Covington Ridge.

Aqua President Tom Roberts noted that Aqua was proud to help these Wake Forest families get water that is regularly tested and complies with state and federal health standards. This situation underscores the benefits to customers of public water systems. Unlike private well owners, Aqua must adhere to federal and state laws that require consistent and frequent tests for contaminants. Last year, Aqua provided a similar connection for an Oak Ridge, Guilford County neighborhood where private wells were found to be contaminated by an underground storage tank in 1995. Aqua’s public drinking water system now gives those families a permanent source of clean drinking water – and peace of mind.

Policy Impact on Development and Implementation of Innovative Animal Waste Treatment Technologies

Mike Williams, NC State


Innovative animal waste treatment technologies have been identified through research initiatives in North Carolina to develop alternatives to current treatment systems that rely on land application of animal manure nutrients proximate to where the animals are produced. The state of NC has established environmental performance standards necessary for waste treatment technologies implemented onto new or expanding swine farms. The standards include impacts of animal waste to surface and groundwater, emission of ammonia and odor, release of disease-transmitting pathogens, and heavy metal contamination of soil and groundwater. Existing permitted farms are “grandfathered” and not required to meet this complete set of standards. Many existing farms are operating permitted technology systems that may be nearing the end of their engineered lifespan. Most technology systems that depend upon a combination of mechanical and biological systems to manage waste require innovation and improved efficiency, despite routine maintenance, to effectively manage emissions to environmental media. Although innovative alternatives to current approved systems have been identified, economic constraints are impeding implementation. Value-engineering to reduce the costs of targeted innovative alternatives have been successful. Governance and policy providing reasonable incentives for farms implementing these technologies can significantly impact environmental and societal issues associated with animal production agriculture as well as maintaining the sustainability of this important economic agricultural sector in NC.


Groundwater Protection and Forest Systems

Elizabeth Nichols, NC State


Forests are integral to the management and protection of groundwater and surface waters. Continued population growth for North Carolina, particularly in coastal communities, will require integrated management of surface waters and groundwater protection and innovative approaches to ensure adequate water quality and availability to support municipal, industrial, and agricultural water needs. Urbanization and urban/rural sprawl will challenge current ecosystem services provided by forest lands that provision water and regulate water quality and quantity. Opportunities exist to re-purpose forest lands to continue to provide these important services in the built and natural environments. There is a need to quantify and monetize the services provided by innovative forest system in these urban and rural contexts, particularly their ability to protect groundwater and surface waters.

Enhancing the Value of Pollution Prevention Efforts

Jane Ellen Simmons, EPA


Prevention of chemical contaminants from entering water supplies is the most effective means of avoiding adverse health consequences from exposure to water-borne chemicals. Prevention strategies are often site- pollutant- or pollutant class specific, costly and not completely effective at preventing entry into water. Given resource limitations, focusing prevention or removal efforts on those contaminants whose presence at measured or anticipated levels are most likely to be associated with health effects affords the opportunity to remediate or lower actual or potential risk. Contaminants are present in water as groups or mixtures of chemicals. This presentation will summarize information on occurrence of chemical contaminants in water, focusing on data collected on contaminants of emerging concern in linked source and disinfected water surveys and the chemicals formed (disinfection byproducts) during disinfection of water with chlorine or chloramine. Methods to determine the contribution of components, either individual chemicals or subgroups, to the toxicity of groups and mixtures of chemicals will be reviewed. The expected component contribution score allows calculation of the percentage of the mixture response that is expected from each component when it is assumed that the chemicals in the mixture do not interact to cause greater than expected or less than expected toxicity. In sum, while elimination of all chemicals of human origin from water may be ideal, it is not currently achievable given available technology and resources. Thus, the greatest public health benefit is likely to be achieved by employing methods that allow both pollution prevention and remediation practices to focus selectively on those contaminants that comprise the greatest part of the potential toxicity or risk. (This abstract does not reflect EPA policy.)

Corporate Social Responsibility: A Case Study

Dennis H. Treacy, Smithfield Foods, Inc.


Water availability and water quality are of critical importance to Smithfield Foods, Inc. and have been an important focus of Smithfield’s sustainability program. We use water to sustain animal health (e.g., hydration, sanitation, and cooling) and to keep equipment clean. Our processing facilities use water for cooling, cleaning, sanitizing, and making our products. This presentation will review Smithfield’s efforts to assess water risk both domestically and internationally, to reduce water use, to improve fertilizer optimization and soils health, to identify and eliminate risks to water sources, and to alleviate potential stress on the local groundwater aquifers.


Drinking Water Mapping Application for Protecting Source Waters

Sherri Comerford, EPA and Danette Boezio/Peter Ilieve, RTI International

US EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water and RTI International, Inc. are pleased to share the beta version of Drinking Water Mapping Application for Protecting Source Waters (DWMAPS). DWMAPS is designed to help users to: identify potential sources of contamination; find data to support source water assessments and plans; evaluate accidental spills and releases; promote integration of drinking water protection activities with other environmental programs like the Clean Water Act; other functions. This presentation will cover basics on content and navigation and a demonstration of sample queries. During the Monday and Tuesday lunch break, there will be an opportunity for attendees to try out the program and provide feedback before EPA releases the tool to the wider public.

Controlled Release System for ISCO

Alexis Wells Carpenter, AxNano /Triad Growth Partners

North Carolina is home to many prestigious universities and colleges where ground-breaking research and world-changing technologies are being developed daily. Triad Growth Partners works with such research institutions to transition innovative technologies from the lab into the market. This presentation will introduce one of the technologies TGP is developing for improved In Situ Chemical Oxidation. In Situ Chemical Oxidation (ISCO) is a fast growing area in environmental remediation due to its ability to treat contaminated sites “as they lie” with less environmental disruption and lower labor costs than traditional pump-and-treat methods. Our technology further improves ISCO by allowing controlled deliver of highly effective remediation agents to specific sites and at appropriate concentrations.

Community-Driven Environmental Monitoring and the Accessibility Cornerstone

Gretchen Gehrke, Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science

Public Lab is an open science community working to democratize science by developing low-cost, open-source environmental monitoring equipment and supporting communities in conducting transparent environmental studies. Community members are empowered to investigate their own environment through ardent accessibility, requisite in multiple realms including tool price, education and training, data literacy, and actionable advocacy pathways. This presentation discusses the potential power of community science, the need for thorough accessibility, and Public Lab’s strategies for fostering community-driven, community-conducted environmental science, with a focus on water monitoring.

Technology Challenges and Solutions to Water Quality and Sanitation at Household and Community Levels

Mark D. Sobsey, UNC-Chapel Hill


Many North Carolina residents, both rural and peri-urban, obtain water from their own private wells and also have their own on-site wastewater treatment and management systems. The extent to which these water supplies and on-site wastewater treatment systems are in good working order, are providing safe drinking water and are effectively treating household wastewater is usually unknown to those served by them until dramatic and visible failures occur. Furthermore, most NC residents with their own water and on-site waste systems have little knowledge and understanding of their systems and few take pro-active measures to maintain, monitor or manage them. Local agencies may make little effort to support or facilitate pro-active management of these private systems on an on-going basis, leaving it to the owners or users of these systems to maintain and manage them. Most NC residents do not know what contaminants might be of health concern in their drinking water and most do not know what to have the water tested for to determine if it is safe. They may not even know where to get it tested or how to interpret the results of such testing. Likewise, on-site waste management systems such as septic tank-soil absorption systems are difficult to monitor for effective performance and only the most obvious system failures or deficiencies are detected, such as wastewater back-up into the home or upwelling and ponding of sewage from the leach field on the property. Yet, it is well documented that typically one of five on-site systems is malfunctioning and allowing poorly treated septic waste to be released into the environment. Septic system impacts on local and regional water quality are now becoming better documented in some regions of the country. Both “hardware” and “software” are needed to provide NC residents with their own water and sanitation systems to better understand and manage them, with tools for effective operations and maintenance. Currently, they have no definitive and independent resources to turn to that are obvious, readily available and responsive. An example of hardware tools that consumers could use if they were informed, encouraged and supported are simple, portable, self-contained and affordable tests to detect and quantify the fecal indicator bacterium Escherichia coli in their drinking water, which used to determine the bacteriological quality of drinking water. The regular use of such simple tests would empower NC residents to determine the bacteriological quality of their drinking water and take further actions if they found that their drinking water was bacteriologically unsafe. These are examples of simple but effective tools for NC residents to become actively involved in managing and monitoring their own drinking water before resorting to expensive independent testing or investing in water treatment technologies that they may or may not need.


Guiding Water Sector’s Path To Innovation: Economic Correlation Between The Water And Clean Energy Sectors

Newsha Ajami, Stanford University


The United States water sector, while the largest market in the world, has been slow to adopt and implement new technological innovations. In particular, the water sector has largely taken a reactive and conservative approach to innovation. In this study, we present a comparative analysis between the water and clean energy sectors’ rate of innovation using the numbers of patents filed in each sector as a proxy. We highlight venture capital and corporate capital investments are significantly lower in the water sector, which has potentially affected the number of patents in this sector compared to the clean energy sector.

Multiple factors have driven the low level of innovation in the water sector, including unrealistically low water rates, lack of access to capital, regulatory limitations, concerns about public health and possible risks associated with innovation, the conservative culture of the industry, and the long life expectancy, size and complexity of most water systems.

We discuss that the first step to moving the water sector forward is to alter the way we govern water at various scales. The goal should to create an open and flexible environment that would be innovation friendly. Our key recommendation is therefore the creation of an office of water resources integration and development in each state. The office of innovation will be tasked to promote innovation-driven sustainable water resource management within each state. More specifically, the office would work with local governments, water authorities, and other relevant sectors to promote best pricing policies, streamline regulations across and within sectors, and enable access to funding.

This presentation has been prepared based on the following paper: “The Path to Water Innovation”, by N.K. Ajami., B.H. Thompson, D.G. Victor, Discussion Paper 2014-06, The Hamilton Project, Brookings Institute, October 2014.

Summit Supporters

Environmental Protection Agency

RTI International

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University

North Carolina State University

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

MDB, Inc.

Social & Scientific Systems, Inc.

Integrated Laboratory Systems

North Carolina Biotechnology Center

VisionPoint Marketing