Suncor “forever chemicals” releases spike again as more PFAS hits Sand Creek and Adams County - Tradewinds Water Filtration

Suncor “forever chemicals” releases spike again as more PFAS hits Sand Creek and Adams County

June water discharge from the refinery shot to 2,500 parts per trillion of one PFAS, when the EPA standard is 4 parts per trillion, records show.

The Suncor refinery in Commerce City in June recorded PFAS “forever chemicals” in its discharge water into Sand Creek at more than 10,000 times the EPA health advisory level for the substance set last year, according to monthly reports to state health officials. 

The massive spike in the toxic chemicals used in waterproofing and stain-resistant coatings coming off Suncor’s compound last month dwarfed the previous high readings in the Sand Creek discharge. Measurements of one particularly troubling form of PFAS, referred to as PFOS, hit 2,500 parts per trillion in June, compared with the EPA’s updated health advisory of 0.02 ppt for the chemical, according to Earthjustice, which monitors Suncor’s state filings. 

One outflow measured at Suncor registered November readings at 1,100 ppt of PFOS in discharges, and then 218 parts ppt in May, Earthjustice noted. 

Earthjustice says the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which has been rewriting a draft renewed water discharge permit for Suncor since early 2022, needs to move forward on tougher enforcement of PFAS and benzene-control agreements with Suncor. 

“Clearly, that treatment system isn’t preventing these large spikes in Suncor’s PFAS discharges, and Suncor still isn’t reliably controlling its discharges,” said Caitlin Miller, an Earthjustice attorney in Denver.  “Once that PFAS makes its way from Suncor into Sand Creek and the South Platte River, it will just keep flowing downstream.”

There are municipal water agencies downstream of Suncor that must clean up South Platte River water to EPA and state standards; persistent high readings of contaminants can raise their treatment costs, Earthjustice and other groups have noted. 

“Right now, communities are in the dark about what’s causing these massive discharges of pollution into our waterways and what, if anything, Suncor is doing about it,” Miller said.

State officials say they are not yet ready to discuss the rewrites of the permit draft first offered for public comment last year. They say they are incorporating the new EPA advisories as well as results from Suncor’s mandatory discharge reporting. 

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