SEATTLE (Scrap Monster): A black liquor seep stemming from contaminated groundwater beneath the Canton paper mill has been migrating into the Pigeon River, but it's unclear where on the mill property it's coming from, let alone how to fix it.
The black liquor seep raised its head again last year after first being detected three decades ago. Black liquor is a toxic byproduct from paper making, and the legacy pollution could date back to the days before environmental regulations.
Now that the black liquor has made its way into groundwater beneath the mill, tracing and removing the source of the contamination could prove difficult, according to a flurry of records, memos and letters on file with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.
The first reported sighting of black liquor seeping in the Pigeon River was in 1994, during Champion Paper ownership. The discovery led to a series of more than two dozen groundwater monitoring wells installed across the mill property.
By measuring underground concentrations, the hope was to figure out the origin of the seep and how it was migrating. Champion attempted to pump the black liquor up from under the ground, but the effort didn't work, according to state environmental records.
By sheer luck, the black liquor went dark and seemed to abate on its own. That was until late 2021, when a dark plume seeping into the Pigeon River was once again noticed.
Inspectors with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality investigated the plume in January 2022 and confirmed the black liquor seep was back.
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