To the Editor:
It was great to see your informative two-part coverage of the problems of industrial contaminants in the Haw River, and in Pittsboro’s drinking water (Dec. 23, 30 editions). I thought readers would like to know more about the actions the Haw River Assembly (HRA) has taken recently to address this issue, led by our Haw Riverkeeper Emily Sutton.
In November 2019, HRA, represented by Southern Environmental Law Center, brought a Notice of Intent to Sue the City of Burlington regarding their PFAS and 1,4 Dioxane discharges from their wastewater treatment plant and land applied sludge fields. High levels of these chemicals had been found in the river and in Pittsboro’s drinking water, as a result. In October 2020 we signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Burlington requiring them to investigate the sources of industrial pollution into its wastewater treatment systems. By conducting extensive sampling of the sewer lines, these chemicals are now being traced back to specific dischargers so that the pollution can be stopped at its source.
In April 2021, a legal challenge, was brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Haw River Assembly concerning the state’s Special Order of Consent for Greensboro, which allowed discharges of cancer-causing 1,4-dioxane from factories into the city’s sewage treatment plant. That wastewater goes into the Haw River and then the Cape Fear — the drinking water source for nearly one million people, in violation of the Clean Water Act and state water quality laws. HRA was joined in this action by the City of Fayetteville, which draws its water further downstream on the Cape Fear River.
On December, 2021, we reached a settlement with the State and Greensboro for a revised Special Order of Consent that reduces the amount of 1,4-dioxane, increases monitoring, requires public reporting of this data, and requires investigation of which industries are the source of this pollution.
Additionally, we continue to partner with Duke University and N.C. State to do public health forums (two have been held so far) concerning the water contamination, and facilitating studies with Pittsboro drinking water users to test PFAS levels in their home drinking water taps and in their blood. We are continuing to review NCDEQ’s sampling data and work with academic labs to collect and process samples to pinpoint other sources. We are committed to continue our 40 years of work for clean water in the Haw River, and stopping pollution at its source.
The writer is the executive director of the Haw River Assembly.
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