Pittsboro mayor, Leader Reives, AG call for oversight, holding water polluters accountable


PITTSBORO – Dwarfed by one of the state’s first granular activated carbon advanced filtration systems a trio of government officials gathered at the Pittsboro Water Treatment plant to address the town’s ongoing water issues.

Pittsboro Mayor Kyle Shipp, NC House Minority Leader Rep. Robert Reives (D-Chatham) and NC Attorney General Josh Stein (D) spoke to the press on Thursday, Feb. 15 to bring attention to ongoing government actions meant to protect the health of the community and hold accountable those responsible for water pollution.

“The shadow of contamination has loomed large over these waters, and the issues we face with pollutants entering our water supply have not only threatened our environment, but the health and well-being of our community,” said Mayor Shipp, addressing the harmful substances that for years have been discharged into the Haw River.

“Our response to these challenges has been multifaceted and unprecedented. We have done rigorous testing to understand the extent of the pollution, engage experts and community members alike to prepare for, respond to, and work to prevent the pollutants from entering our drinking water,” Shipp said, reiterating the town’s resolve in protecting access to clean drinking water.

Pittsboro spent over $3 million to install the granular activated carbon advanced filtration system, exceeding expectations on removing contaminants. The system treats the water for unregulated contaminants such as 1,4-Dioxane, PFAS, PFOS, and PFOA.

“The test results show a 90% plus removal of PFAS compounds,” Shipp said, going to express his gratitude neighboring Sanford, Burlington and Greensboro for working collaboratively to identify sources of pollution and improve the water system.

Mayor Shipp was recently appointed to the EPA’s Local Government Advisory Committee where he will work on a number of issues of local concern, including PFAS contamination.

Leader Reives noted the residential and business growth Chatham is seeing and the challenges that accompany it.

“With growth comes challenges, particularly with water and sewer infrastructure,” he said. “Tens of millions of dollars have come into Pittsburgh and surrounding areas for drinking water projects, but there will always be additional need.”

The Pittsboro Board of Commissioners this week approved the filing of a lawsuit against Apollo Chemical for violations of the Clean Water Act related to alleged contamination of the Haw River.

We can’t “control what those upstream do, particularly when corporations release dangerous chemicals into the water supply,” Reives said. “But we can make sure that they are held accountable when they are irresponsible.”

“When you turn on a faucet at home, you should never have to worry, is that water going to make your loved one sick? You shouldn't have to worry about giving your kids a bath in the bathtub. You should never doubt whether that water is clean,” said Attorney General Josh Stein (D). “And while I appreciate the Town of Pittsboro’s initiative, you shouldn't have to bring water jugs and water bottles to a collection agency to get specially treated water.”

The attorney general added that they have been working with the Environmental Management Commission to develop stricter regulations to protect against 1,4-Dioxane and determine the appropriate permit conditions and discharge limits for municipal wastewater treatment facilities and the companies that are the sources of these chemicals.

“Corporations have a responsibility to come to the table and work with us to protect people's health,” said the Stein, adding that If companies are irresponsible, break the law, and put North Carolinians' health at risk, they will not hesitate to act. “We've already made encouraging progress when it comes to PFAS contamination.”

Stein noted the settlement with Chemours that imposed the largest environmental fine in the state’s history and prevents the unlawful discharge of GenX and other PFAS compounds into the Cape Fear River, requires the installation of state-of-the-art technology to prevent further PFAS emissions into the air, and requires the company to contain and clean up the contaminated groundwater.

“I have filed six additional lawsuits against DuPont, 3M, and a dozen other companies that manufactured AFFF, the firefighting foam that contains PFAS,” said Stein. He also noted that the judge in the pending Fayetteville Works lawsuit said companies can’t use shell corporations to hand off liabilities to subsidiaries to evade potential judgements.