Town officials address water quality issues in Pittsboro

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Friday, February 16, 2024
Town officials address water quality issues in Pittsboro
The Haw River is a source of pride for people living in Pittsboro, but it's also a lifeline.

PITTSBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- Over the past decade, officials in the Town of Pittsboro said toxins have flown downstream and ultimately impacted drinking water for residents.

State and local leaders met to discuss the ongoing water quality issues and legal action against companies allegedly responsible for the toxic release.

The Haw River is a source of pride for people living in Pittsboro, but it's also a lifeline. The town is the only one in Chatham County that draws drinking water from the Haw River.

"I mean, we get calls all the time about, you know, 'Can I fill up my daughter's water bottle at school? How does this impact my family when we take showers or baths? Can I cook with this water?' And so there's still a lot of uncertainty about what is safe," said Haw Riverkeeper Emily Sutton with the Haw River Assembly.

Two of the main toxins tested are 1,4-Dioxane and PFAS, which both pose health dangers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high exposure can cause liver and kidney damage. The Environmental Protection Agency calls 1,4-dioxane, an industrial chemical, a human carcinogen.

Attorney General Josh Stein, House Democratic Leader Robert Reives, and Pittsboro Mayor Kyle Shipp are working to ensure there is clean water.

"I will do everything in my power to both as the lawyer for the DOEQ to protect NC natural resources. Our children and grandchildren deserve clean air, clean water, and a healthy climate," said Attorney General Josh Stein.

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According to Pittsboro Mayor Kyle Shipp, they worked with city staff in Burlington and Greensboro to identify the source of these pollutions. The town is taking legal action against companies under the 'Resource Conservation and Recover Act' and the 'Clean Water Act'. "

"The town filing suit in 2023 against 3M and numerous other polluters for PFAs in the Haw River. Just this week the board of commission decided to move forward with litigation against Apollo Chemical for their contamination of the Haw River," said Mayor Shipp.

He said new $3 million carbon filtration systems have helped to remove about 90 percent of PFAS compounds from drinking water. There are plans to install another system to filter out 1,4-Dioxane.

"I want to be clear that the state of North Carolina has the authority right now to regulate fast and on 1,4 Dioxane or discharges. So, you know, in the most urgent situation, we want the town of Pittsboro to provide safe drinking water to their customers. And that is the urgent situation that we have. But the Town of Pittsboro is very small and they do not have the budget and should not be held responsible for pollution," said Sutton.

"The Environmental Management Commission of the state is in the process of setting a level for 1,4 Dioxane that would apply statewide. It takes time for them to both identify and publish that standard and then to get it adopted into law. But that is work that our lawyers are helping them to do as we speak," said Stein.

All agree they want companies to be held accountable.

"We need leaders that are willing to make sure that when corporations misbehave there are consequences," said House Democratic Leader Robert Reives. "A slap on the wrist is nothing. When communities like Pittsboro have to work day and night just to ensure residents have clean drinking water."

ABC11 reached out to Apollo Chemicals but has not received a response.