Suncor would face tougher water pollution rules under draft permit

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — The Suncor oil refinery in Commerce City would face tougher rules for water pollution under a proposed new permit for the site.

Suncor is working to renew its water discharge permit with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the state is looking for feedback on its proposed changes to the company’s requirements.

“The site has had frequent problems with poor maintenance, spills, and violations, and so we are responding to that by implementing new measures to hold the facility accountable,” said Nicole Rowan, division director for CDPHE’s Water Quality Control Division. “We want to hear from the public on this permit because it is intended to protect them from harmful pollutants.”

Suncor’s violations at the Commerce City site include a record $9 million settlement in 2020 over air quality violations, along with other enforcement actions.

A virtual informational meeting on the permit renewal is set for Thursday, Nov. 18, from 6:30-8 p.m. The state is also accepting public feedback through Feb. 10, 2022.

Suncor near drinking water source

Suncor’s operations are along the bank of Sand Creek near the South Platte River. It’s also crossed by the Burlington Ditch, “an important source of drinking water for Denver’s northern suburbs,” according to CDPHE.

Under the new restrictions, Suncor will be required to:

  • “conduct frequent site inspections,
  • ensure the safety of drinking water transported through the section of Burlington Ditch that crosses its property,
  • improve maintenance operations,
  • and send text notifications when spills occur at the site to parties who subscribe to their text notification program.”

The more restrictive permit would be meant to protect Sand Creek and downstream waters for recreation, aquatic life, agriculture and drinking, according to CDPHE.

It would also implement monitoring requirements and limits for toxic metals and chemicals, like benzene and PFAS, while also boosting transparency at the Suncor site, CDPHE said.

Read more on the draft Suncor permit here (information is also available in Spanish). You can view documents on the permit renewal here.

Virtual meeting scheduled

CDPHE will review the draft permit at a virtual meeting.

How to give feedback on the draft Suncor permit

Members of the public can provide written feedback through Feb. 10, 2022.

  • People can use this online comment form.
  • For longer comments, CDPHE asks people to use this comment template and email the document, in Microsoft Word format (with attachments, if necessary) to: cdphe_wqcd_suncor@state.co.us.
  • To request a formal public comment meeting, email the division by Dec. 9 at cdphe_wqcd_suncor@state.co.us.

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