Pittsboro commissioners, Water Quality Task Force discuss next steps after August chemical discharge


Correction: A previous version of the story incorrectly stated that the Town of Pittsboro filed a notice of intent to sue Shamrock Environmental for a spill of 1,4 Dioxane. This is inaccurate. The Southern Environmental Law Center issued an intent to sue the City of Burlington for a PFAS spill from their wastewater treatment plant. Also, Emily Sutton’s title is Haw Riverkeeper not riverkeeper. We regret these errors. 

Before their regular meeting last Monday, the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners discussed a spill of a likely carcinogenic chemical into Pittsboro’s water supply with the Water Quality Task Force. 

1,4 Dioxane is classified by the National Toxicology Program as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” but is not regulated under the Clean Water Act, the commissioners said. This means that Shamrock may not be necessarily required to notify those down river, Emily Sutton, a Haw Riverkeeper for the Haw River Assembly, said. 

The discharge occurred on Aug. 7, at the Shamrock site northeast of Greensboro, when the chemicals where discharged into a tributary of the Haw River. 

Task Force members told town commissioners that that 1,4 Dioxane is “highly variable” and that even if it was dumped upstream it could take roughly 48 hours for it to be detected. Researchers from Duke and NC State are now testing water samples and taking blood from residents who may be affected. 

Commissioners Pamela Baldwin and John Bonitz also lamented a perceived lack of involvement by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.  A DEQ spokesperson previously told Our Chatham “DEQ is investigating the release and will pursue all appropriate enforcement actions for identified violations under the City of Greensboro’s NPDES permit with the state.”

Southern Environmental Law Center wrote a notice of intent to sue the City of Burlington on behalf of Haw River Assembly for PFAS discharges at their wastewater treatment plant.

DEQ also issued notices of violation to Shamrock Environmental for 1,4 Dioxane spills.

According to the commissioners, Shamrock claims it was never contacted by the town prior to the notice of intent, a claim that commissioners disputed in the meeting. 

The Water Quality Task Force will meet again this Thursday at 7 p.m. at Pittsboro Town Hall to discuss the discharge. 

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