Colorado Water Division to Consider Enforcement Action Against Suncor Refinery

Division sent compliance advisory to Suncor for benzene and solids exceedances


Perry Wheeler, Earthjustice, (202) 792-6211,

Colorado’s Water Quality Control Division recently sent a compliance advisory to Suncor Energy for three benzene and two total suspended solids exceedances at the company’s Commerce City refinery between January and April of this year. The advisory notes “significant noncompliance” with the facility’s permit effluent limitations, and states that due to the persistence of violations, the division is initiating a process to determine whether a formal enforcement action is warranted.

Suncor’s benzene and total suspended solids exceedances are in addition to recent spikes in the facility’s discharges of PFAS forever chemicals into nearby Sand Creek and the South Platte River. In May 2023, Suncor discharged 218 parts-per-trillion of PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, and parent compounds known to break down into these chemicals. This amount is more than three times the Water Quality Control Division’s proposed draft permit limit of 70 parts-per-trillion for the facility.

This month, Suncor was also fined $15,000 for the December fire at its facility that injured two workers. 

“It is clear that Suncor cannot control its water pollution and communities near the facility are suffering because of it,” said Caitlin Miller, senior associate attorney with Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain Office. “This facility is a menace to surrounding communities and should only be allowed to operate if it can get its pollution under control. We are hopeful that the water division moves forward with an enforcement action to at long last hold Suncor accountable.”

The Suncor Energy refinery in Commerce City, Colorado.
The Suncor Energy refinery in Commerce City, Colorado. (Matt Nager for Earthjustice)

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