Public hearing, comment period announced for consent order with Greensboro over 1,4-Dioxane

The compound 1,4-Dioxane, a likely carcinogen, has been found in surface water and drinking water throughout the Cape Fear River Basin. Sources include industrial dischargers and runoff from farm fields that have been applied with biosolids from wastewater treatment plants. (Map: DEQ)

The NC Department of Environmental Quality will hold a remote public hearing next month about a Special Order of Consent to correct the City of Greensboro’s illegal discharges of 1,4-Dioxane into the downstream drinking water supply.

Because of the level of public interest, the hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 9, on a proposed Special Order by Consent (SOC) for the City of Greensboro’s T.Z. Osborne Wastewater Treatment Plant discharge permit.

The proposed order addresses issues related to the discharge of elevated levels of 1,4-dioxane from the wastewater treatment plan to South Buffalo Creek in the Cape Fear River Basin. 1,4-dioxane is an emerging compound that EPA has identified as a likely human carcinogen.

A two-part investigation Policy Watch published in July revealed that Greensboro officials had shielded its industrial dischargers of 1,4-Dioxane from scrutiny. They buried 1,4-Dioxane data in public reports. Some upstream utilities officials even pooh-poohed the dangers of 1,4-Dioxane; another falsely accused an NC State scientist of scaring the public for personal gain.

After an industrial discharger Shamrock Environmental accidentally discharged 1,4-Dioxane level into the sewer system and the wastewater treatment plant, the compound contaminated the Haw River and Pittsboro’s drinking water, at levels far above the recommended health level. Even though Greensboro utilities officials knew concentrations were high, they failed to notify downstream communities and DEQ for more than a month.

The EPA does not regulate 1,4-Dioxane in drinking water, but the compound is regulated in surface water, such as the Haw River, and in groundwater.

DEQ cited Greensboro with a Notice of Violation but has proposed fining the city just $5,000.

DEQ’s Division of Water Resources has amended the Special Order by Consent based on comments received on the draft, and has published a FAQ document to answer questions received from the first comment period. The City of Greensboro has accepted all of the changes, and the revised, proposed SOC is being provided for public input.

State regulators have also opened the public comment period, which runs through Dec. 9.

In addition to the public hearing, comments on the SOC may be submitted now through December 9, 2020 by emailing [email protected] with “T.Z. Osborne WWTP SOC” in the subject line. Comments may also be provided by calling 336-776-9691 and leaving a recorded message. Please state your name and any affiliation before commenting. Written comments may be mailed to
N.C. Division of Water Resources
Water Quality Permitting Section
Attn: Brianna Young
1617 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1617

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the hearing will be held remotely and the public is invited to provide comments online or by phone.

Date:   Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Time: 6 p.m. (Attendees may begin joining at 5:45 PM)
Join online: WebEx

Join by phone:  1-415-655-0003; (access code): 178 487 5557
To speak during the hearing, registration is required by noon, Dec. 9.

 

 

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