Pittsboro weathers latest 1,4 dioxane release


PITTSBORO — The Town of Pittsboro was notified on Wednesday, Jan. 24, by Burlington city officials that regular testing performed at the South Burlington Wastewater Treatment Plant showed the presence of 1,4 dioxane in the effluent, or water released back into the Haw River from the facility.

Further testing confirmed that 1,4 dioxane entered the Haw River after passing through Burlington's plant. The sample taken in Burlington a day earlier showed 1,4 dioxane concentrations of 545 µg/l leaving the plant.

"Upon receiving this information, our water plant staff immediately began their processes for responding to this type of event. Out of an abundance of caution, the water plant ceased pulling water from the Haw River and began determining the availability of rush testing," a statement from Pittsboro officials said in a statement.

Following the disclosure, Pittsboro officials said testing and sampling would increase to being conducted daily until they were confident the incident would not impact the town or when testing indicated the slug would pass. In addition, water plant staff implemented a plan to operate the plant 24 hours a day, drawing only the minimum amount needed to keep the water system functional.

Officials also asked customers to reduce or eliminate non-essential water uses including landscape irrigation, washing vehicles and houses, filling pools, etc. The town is actively working with the City of Burlington and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to assess and respond to this event.

Pittsboro also renewed its partnership with Chatham Marketplace to offer drinking water treated with reverse osmosis and ultra-violet advanced filtration systems at no charge to Town of Pittsboro water customers and customers of Aqua NC who receive their water from the system at Chatham Marketplace.

Initial reports show positive signs for the town’s action.

Rush samples taken were positive, according to Pittsboro officials, with results indicating the slug reached the town on Friday and not yet entered the water system.

Additional samples the town received Monday evening found the quick actions likely have reduced the impact of the release.

The tests found that raw composite samples consisted of 1.02 µg/L and finished composite samples were 1.96 µg/L. The town notes that composite samples are those taken multiple times throughout the day and analyzed as a whole.

“The town is cautiously optimistic about these results, as they indicate that the Town's response plan to 1,4 dioxane events successfully maintained our water supply while limiting the uptake of the substance into our water distribution system,” the Monday statement from the town read.

“Further, it appears the slug of 1,4 dioxane has passed by the town, the portion that made it into our system is decreasing, and any remaining 1,4 dioxane is likely heavily diluted or moved downstream from the heavy rain over the weekend.”

Pittsboro will seek verification from Burlington city officials to confirm this week that they are also seeing decreasing or non-detectable 1,4 dioxane in their effluent. Until confirmation, town officials will continue only pulling minimal water from the Haw River and continue daily testing.