Home Energy and Environment Groups Urge DEQ to Stop PFAS (“Forever Chemicals”) Pollution at Its Source...

Groups Urge DEQ to Stop PFAS (“Forever Chemicals”) Pollution at Its Source in Issuing Permit to Danville, Va. Treatment Plant

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From Wild Virginia, the Southern Environmental Law Center, and the Dan River Basin Association

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) along with the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) and Wild Virginia submitted comments today to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on DEQ’s failure to address pollution from PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” coming from the Northside Wastewater Treatment Plant in Danville, Virginia.

Sampling from the plant shows that it has released wastewater to the Dan River with high concentrations of PFAS. Several of the industrial facilities that send their wastewater to the plant are suspected PFAS polluters. DEQ has been aware of this PFAS pollution since at least 2022, yet it has refused to take any steps—including those specifically recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—to monitor and control PFAS pollution as part of the plant’s water discharge permit.

Through their pretreatment programs, wastewater treatment plants can change the waste received from industrial customers by requiring that the industries implement pollution controls. In other states like North Carolina and Michigan, state agencies and wastewater treatment plants are already implementing such requirements to stop PFAS pollution from entering waterways.

“It is critical that DEQ make sure the Northside Wastewater Treatment Plant is addressing PFAS pollution coming from its industrial customers,” said Tiffany Haworth, Executive Director of
DRBA. “DRBA’s mission is to protect the Dan River and it just makes sense both for public health and for economic development to stop the pollution before it enters our waterways.”

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a class of thousands of human-made chemicals that have been used in manufacturing since the 1940s. These chemicals are associated with serious health impacts, and they do not dissipate, dissolve, or degrade but stay in water, soil, and our bodies.

“The DEQ Director must use his authority to hold a public hearing to give people the chance to weigh in on the threats to their waters from these dangerous chemicals,” said David Sligh, Conservation Director at Wild Virginia. “DEQ had information showing PFAS are being dumped into the Dan River from this plant two years ago and it must now tell the wider public what it knows and require that the pollutants be controlled in the permit.” For years, SELC has requested that DEQ use its authority under the Clean Water Act to stop PFAS pollution at its source through Virginia’s Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) program. DEQ, however, has so far declined to do so, including in the Northside Wastewater Treatment Plant permit.

“DEQ needs to use the tools it already has to stop the flow of PFAS pollution into our rivers and streams,” said Carroll Courtenay, Staff Attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Strong permits not only protect our health and environment, but also make sure that polluters—not downstream communities—are paying to clean up PFAS pollution.”

Given the serious health impacts of PFAS, the EPA recently finalized drinking water standards for six PFAS and also designated two types of PFAS, PFOA and PFOS, as hazardous substances.

Both PFOA and PFOS, along with other PFAS chemicals, appear in the Northside Wastewater Treatment Plant’s influent and effluent data—meaning the plant has released PFAS from its industrial customers into the Dan River.

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