News | November 2, 2022

Permit could perpetuate PFAS problems in the Cape Fear River Basin

SELC submitted comments on forever chemical pollution affecting drinking water of potentially more than 135,000 North Carolinians
North Carolina communities rely on the Cape Fear River Basin for drinking water and enjoy it for recreation.

A draft permit currently allows the City of Sanford to discharge wastewater contaminated with forever chemicals into downstream drinking water supplies in North Carolina’s Cape Fear River Basin, where the Southern Environmental Law Center has been working for years to stop this pollution at its source. 

Take action to protect our drinking water by stopping PFAS pollution.

“The number of chemicals that we know are polluting our water and communities has grown dramatically in recent decades,” says Senior Attorney Geoff Gisler, leader of SELC’s Clean Water Program. “We can’t keep letting this happen and we won’t. We need polluter accountability now.”  

A map showing the drinking water threatened by the City of Sanford's wastewater discharges.

The discharges in question are contaminated with toxic 1,4-dioxane and PFAS from the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Sanford discharges the contaminated wastewater into the Deep River approximately 17 miles upstream of the city’s own drinking water intake, which provides the drinking water for more than 50,000 people in Sanford, Goldston, Lee County, and parts of Chatham County. 

Sanford also announced the intention to expand its drinking water services to provide drinking water to the cities of Pittsboro, Fuquay-Varina, and Holly Springs, which would then provide drinking water to more than 135,000 North Carolinians.  

“From Pittsboro to communities further downstream, the Cape Fear River Basin and people who rely on it are already overburdened with toxic PFAS and 1,4-dioxane contamination,” says Gisler. “It’s clear that the best way to confront this pollution is stopping it at its source.” 

SELC submitted comments to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality on behalf of Haw River Assembly and Cape Fear River Watch.

The agency has the authority and responsibility under existing law to prevent this pollution, as outlined in the comments and as demonstrated in SELC’s work to stop Chemours’ PFAS pollution of the Cape Fear River. 

We will be monitoring the issue closely.

We’re protecting communities by stopping forever chemical pollution at its source.