Thousands of New Hanover residents woke up Wednesday not able to drink their water

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — An advisory to boil water in parts of northern New Hanover County was scheduled to remain in effect Thursday for residents who had been warned Wednesday not to drink water after elevated levels of fluoride were detected.

The boil water advisory will remain in effect Thursday at Laney High School, Trask Middle School, Eaton Elementary School and Murrayville Elementary School, according to a release from New Hanover County Schools. Per the release, students at those schools will drink bottled water.

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) on Wednesday afternoon issued a precautionary boil water advisory for water customers in all of the Murrayville, NorthChase and Torchwood Boulevard area. The boil water advisory was issued, the utility said, because there would likely be periods of low pressure and outages caused by crews flushing the system to remove elevated fluoride.

On Wednesday morning, CFPUA warned its customers in most of northern New Hanover County served by the Richardson Nano Groundwater Treatment Plant in Ogden not to drink the water because of elevated fluoride levels.

“Failure to follow this advisory could result in illness,” according to the initial CFPUA news release.

Carel Vandermeyden, CFPUA’s director of engineering, said the utility doesn’t yet know how the fluoride levels spiked.

“We’re going to do a full investigation after,” he said Wednesday.

Unlike the larger Sweeney plant that turns Cape Fear River water into drinking water, the Richardson plant draws water from underground aquifers and filters it through a series of membranes to remove contaminants. The plant, located just off Market Street, serves an estimated 11,000 customers in the Ogden, Murrayville, Castle Hayne and Porters Neck areas. The population of the area impacted by Wednesday morning’s advisory is more than 29,000.

Vandermeyden said the utility initially issued a “do not drink” alert rather than a boil water advisory because increased heat would not remove fluoride.

“Boiling only works for bacterial issues,” he said. “This is a treatment chemical. Boiling the water doesn’t reduce its concentration.”

*Original article online as well as a short video statement from the water department at