Suncor scores another three years to leak unlimited amounts of forever chemicals into a major Colorado water system

Photo of Denver’s Suncor Refinery. Suncor is one of Colorado’s biggest polluters. Among other hazards, the plant leaks forever chemicals into nearby Sand Creek. Photo courtesy of EarthJustice
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    short Alexis Kenyon

 The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, or CDPHE, issued a long overdue Suncor permit this month. 

The permit limits the number of PFAS or forever chemicals that Suncor— a one-hundred-year-old oil refinery in the heart of Denver—  can leak into nearby Sand Creek.  

PFAS or forever chemicals can last hundreds or even thousands of years in the environment. According to the EPA,  microscopic amounts of PFAS in drinking water can cause a host of health problems, including birth defects, thyroid dysfunction, infertility, liver damage,  and kidney and testicular cancer. 

The new permit marks the first time Colorado has put any limits on the amount

of PFAS that Suncor can dump into Colorado’s water system. In addition to PFAS, the permit sets tighter limits for other toxic chemicals that Suncor discharges like benzene, selenium and arsenic. In recent years, Suncor has had to shut down its plant because it violated the permitted levels of benzene it pumps into Sand Creek five times. At one point it pumped 80% more Benzene into Sand Creek than legally allowed. 

KGNU’s Alexis Kenyon spoke with Ian Coghill, an attorney at Earthjustice. He says that while he and other advocates are glad the state has put limits on the close to 50 billion dollar oil refinery, the permit does not go far enough.

Alexis Kenyon

Alexis Kenyon

Alexis Kenyon is an experienced radio reporter with more than 15 years of experience creating compelling, sound-rich radio stories for news outlets across the country. Kenyon has master's degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism in radio broadcast and photojournalism. She has worked in KGNU's news department since 2021 as a reporter, editor, and daily news producer. In all her work, she strives to produce thought-provoking, trustworthy journalism that makes other people's stories feel personal. In addition to audio production, Kenyon runs KGNU's news internship program and oversees the department's digital engagement.

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