May 13, 2022

Suncor Refinery in Commerce City, Colorado, Responds to PFAS Charges

The plant is a major provider of gasoline, diesel fuel and asphalt in Colorado and has operated since 1931

PFAS firefighting foam
Photo 54196369 © Choneschones | Dreamstime.com

The Suncor refinery in Commerce City, Colorado has responded to charges that the PFAS chemicals found in Sand Creek are traced back to them.

“There is no doubt that Colorado has a big PFAS problem,” said Caitlin Miller, an attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental nonprofit organization, reported The Denver Gazette. “Our study shows that Suncor is a significant source of the PFAS found in both Sand Creek and the South Platte.”

According to The Denver Gazette, the refinery’s emergency response teams likely used PFAS chemicals in the form of aqueous film-forming foam to combat fuel fires under its previous owners.

The plant is a major provider of gasoline, diesel fuel and asphalt in Colorado and has operated since 1931, reported The Denver Gazette. Suncor acquired the refinery in 2003 and 2005.

“The communities surrounding the refinery have faced disproportionate health impacts and threats from Suncor for far too long,” according to Miller in a statement, reported The Denver Gazette. “It is time for the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) to issue the strongest possible water discharge permit that prohibits Suncor from discharging any more PFAS.”

“We believe the presence of PFOS/PFOA at the Commerce City Refinery is due to the historical use of Class B firefighting foam, typical of an industrial site like ours. We are in the process of determining a permanent water treatment system to be installed in alignment with the requirements of our water permit. Suncor Energy replaced the old firefighting foam with ATC-AFFF Class B foam that complies with the U.S. EPA PFOA Stewardship Program – 2015 Requirements and does not include any materials on Colorado’s 'Hazardous Constituent' list. This foam is used for emergencies only, and to date we have not used it. The refinery’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) uses water during its fire training exercises,” said Mita Adesanya, spokeswoman for Suncor in a statement to The Denver Gazette.

Suncor is currently not under any limitations for PFAS discharges, according to Meg Parish, permit section manager for the Colorado Department of Health and Environment Clean Water Permit division, reported The Denver Gazette. There will be efforts to impose limits on Suncor’s discharge permit, however, as the new rule from the Water Quality Control Commission that sets 70 ppm for PFAS discharges as the limit statewide. She said there are 30 permits subject to that limit.

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