The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s Sweeney Water Treatment Plant treats water drawn from the Cape Fear River. Photo: CFPUA

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s Sweeney Water Treatment Plant was recently recognized with a Gold Star honor by the state for surpassing federal and state drinking water standards for 10 consecutive years.

The Wilmington-based facility is among the more than 60, mostly located in the western and central regions, the state Division of Water Resources awarded, the division announced Tuesday. The division’s Public Water Supply Section awarded the facilities the North Carolina Area Wide Optimization Award, which is part of a state effort to enhance the performance of existing surface water treatment facilities.

In addition to Cape Fear Public Utility’s Sweeney plant, the state recognized the following facilities with the Gold Star, which is an award for systems that have received the N.C. Area Wide Optimization Award for 10 consecutive years: Lincolnton, Marion, Newton, Kerr Lake Regional Water System, Weaverville-Ivy River, Waynesville-Allens Creek, Maggie Valley Sanitary District, Wilkesboro, Harnett County, Boone, Burnsville and Broad River Water Authority.

Awards are given each year to water systems that demonstrate outstanding turbidity removal, a key test of drinking water quality. Turbidity is a measure of the cloudiness or haziness of water caused by individual particles that can interfere with disinfection and provide a medium for microbial growth. Microbes are microscopic particles that occur naturally but can include harmful bacteria and viruses, officials said.

While all drinking water systems must meet strict state and federal drinking water standards, these systems met performance goals that are significantly more stringent than state and federal standards. In 2020, nearly 2.5 million residents were served by these 64 award-winning plants.

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