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Frame The Importance of

Commercial Truck Insurance in Burlington, NC

  • Let's face it - truckers in America have always been the backbone of our great country. They still are in modern times. On any given day, thousands of trucks traverse our highways and local roads, delivering goods and products on time so that businesses and consumers have what they need to live life. And while commercial trucking can be an incredibly lucrative way to make a living and put food on the table, it can also be risky and expensive.
  • Whether you're the owner of a fleet, an independent trucker, or have a business that uses big rigs to transport goods, you need commercial trucking insurance to protect you and your client's investments, shield you from liability, and more.
  • That's where working with a reliable truck insurance agency comes into play. Unfortunately, for many commercial truck insurance providers, serving the needs of truckers is low on the proverbial totem pole. At Independence Insurance Agency, nothing could be further from the truth.

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percent The Commercial Truck

Insurance Agency in Burlington, NC You Can Trust

Much like you pride yourself on running a successful trucking business, Independence Insurance Agency prides itself on its years of experience providing truck insurance for hardworking men and women across the country. And in our experience, insurance rates for truckers are just too high - so high, in fact, that they eat away at their bottom line, making it more difficult to run a business and make a profit. Fortunately, at Independence Insurance Agency, we provide truckers the freedom they need from astronomically high insurance rates so they can stay on the road and keep driving America forward.

As one of the most trusted commercial trucking insurance agencies in the U.S., we understand the challenges that you face daily as a trucker. We also know how important it is to protect your business. That's why we go above and beyond to find you the best-priced coverage available, whether you're an operator, own a small fleet, a large fleet, or something in between.

Commercial Truck Insurance Burlington, NC

We Put Truckers First Because Others Don't

 Truck Insurance Burlington, NC

Truckers across the country choose to work with Independence Insurance Agency because we put their needs first before anything else. As experts in transportation insurance, we proudly offer a range of quality insurance products that are both practical and affordable for them. Our industry-leading carriers provide coverage that caters to the unique challenges faced by the trucking industry, ensuring that your business is protected at all times.

At our core, we are committed to finding the best possible price for your coverage without compromising the quality of service you deserve. The truth is, we understand how essential truckers are to the United States and take pride in making their insurance experience more streamlined and affordable.

One way we do so is by simplifying the insurance process. Our transportation specialists take the time to understand your specific needs and budget to tailor a comprehensive plan that works for you. You won't ever have to worry about cookie-cutter plans or uninterested agents when you work with our commercial trucking insurance agency. We take an educational approach to ensure that the entire big rig insurance process is quick, painless, and easy to understand. If there's something you don't understand, we're happy to take the time to explain. After all, the success and safety of your business are on the line.

Looking to the future, we are committed to providing innovative new products that cater to the ever-changing needs of truck drivers. As your one-stop shop for commercial trucking insurance, we are dedicated to your success, one policy at a time.

If you're a commercial trucker looking to ensure your rig, you can rest easy knowing that Independence Insurance Agency provides:

  • Affordable Trucking Insurance Plans for Any Budget
  • Exemplary Customer Service
  • Seasoned Transportation Specialists Who Customize Plans to Your Needs
  • A+ Carriers Across the Country
  • Simple, Easy Quote and Bind Process
  • Multiple Insurance Carriers Quoted to Find You the Best Rates
  • Truck Insurance for New Ventures

Call us or send us a message today to learn more about the best 18-wheeler insurance options for your trucking business.

chart The Commercial Truck

Common Types of Big Rig Truck Insurance in Burlington, NC

At Independence Insurance Agency, we offer several types of insurance coverage for local, intermediate, and long-haul trucking needs. Here are just a few categories of trucking insurance coverage that our agency offers.

As the foundation of your insurance policy, liability coverage is required by law in most states in the U.S. It provides coverage for damage or injuries caused to properties or other people if your 18-wheeler is responsible for the crash. Without liability coverage, it's almost impossible to drive a truck or run a trucking business without major legal consequences.

Having physical damage coverage is an essential component that shouldn't be overlooked. This insurance is responsible for covering the expenses related to repairing or replacing your truck in situations such as accidents, theft, vandalism, and other damaging events. By having this coverage, you can rest assured that your business won't be affected significantly by unexpected incidents, and you can continue running your operations smoothly even in challenging times.

For trucking companies, the goods they transport are crucial to their operations. To protect these goods from damage, loss, or theft while in transit, cargo insurance is essential. This coverage provides much-needed peace of mind for both you and your clients, allowing you to reimburse clients for any losses sustained while protecting your reputation and brand identity.

Non-Trucking Liability Insurance is designed to cover property damage or bodily injury that may occur during personal time when the driver/truck is not under dispatch. This coverage can be applied with or without a trailer and is added to a commercial policy as an endorsement.

While Independence Insurance Agency has built a reputation of excellence in serving the needs of truckers, we also offer general liability. Also known as Truckers General Liability, this coverage insures for bodily injuries or property damage that happen due to business activities that are NOT the cause of operating a truck. It covers accidents that occur in parking lots, rest stops, also while loading or unloading. General liability can also cover losses related to theft and vandalism. Most brokers and shippers will require this coverage to work with you.

Bobtail insurance is a type of coverage that is comparable to non-trucking liability, which is designed to offer protection when driving a truck without a trailer attached. This is commonly referred to as "bobtailing." With bobtail insurance, the tractor is covered at all times, even when it is not attached to a trailer, regardless of whether or not the truck is under dispatch.

Trailer interchange insurance is a must-have if you're involved in a trailer interchange agreement. This essential coverage offers protection for trailers owned by other parties that you're using under a contractual agreement. It covers damages caused by collisions, fire, theft, and vandalism, providing assurance to all parties involved.

Curious whether our commercial truck insurance agency in cityname, state offers additional coverage? The following options can be bound in your insurance policy:

  • Business Interruption Insurance
  • Reefer Breakdown Insurance
  • Occupational Accident with Contract Liability Insurance
  • Rental Reimbursement Insurance
  • Underinsured or Uninsured Motorist Insurance
  • Towing Insurance
  • Electronics Insurance
  • Much More

Three plus 3 Safe Driving Tips to

Lower the Cost of Truck Insurance in Burlington, NC

Keeping your drivers safe on the road is crucial not only for their own well-being but also for the safety of other motorists and the financial stability of your business. The Department of Labor has identified the trucking industry as one of the most hazardous sectors in the U.S. In fact, trucking and logistics fleets are known for their high injury and fatality rates. By improving how safely your truckers drive, you can help reduce expenses related to claim payouts, accidents, and insurance premium hikes.

Whether you own a large fleet or you're the owner and operator of a single rig, keep these safe driving tips in mind to help lower your insurance costs.

Implement Preventative Maintenance Plans

Ensuring the safety of your drivers begins with the safety of their vehicles. Trucks and tractor-trailers that do not receive regular maintenance, such as oil and brake pad changes, are more likely to experience breakdowns while on the road. Telematics devices provide real-time insight into engine and odometer data, including fault codes.

This information enables your mechanics to create comprehensive preventative maintenance schedules based on mileage, history of previous breakdowns, days, and more. Additionally, they can receive immediate notifications for critical fault codes. By implementing routine maintenance and proactive repair schedules, you can ensure that your vehicles are in top condition, minimizing the likelihood of breakdowns, which can help reduce the cost of trucker insurance.

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 Trucking Insurance Burlington, NC

Practice Defensive Driving

This approach aims to mitigate the risk of fatal crashes and injuries by proactively identifying and responding to potentially dangerous situations and making informed decisions while driving. By adopting defensive driving techniques, drivers can reduce their likelihood of accidents, thereby minimizing the need for expensive repairs, claim payouts, and increased insurance premiums.

Some of the easiest ways for you or your drivers to practice safe driving include:

  • Be Wary of Blind Spots: Operating a reefer or tractor-trailer means driving high off of the ground, which can make visibility limited, especially in blind spots. To check your blind spot, look over your shoulder and out of your windows while changing lanes.
  • Be Ready for Emergencies on the Road: It's important for drivers to be ready for unexpected situations when driving, especially during long trips. They should be equipped to handle emergencies such as poor driving conditions or big rig breakdowns.
  • Use the Three-Second Rule: Truck drivers should try to maintain a three-second gap between their vehicle and the car in front of them. This means that the truck driver should reach a certain point on the road three seconds after the car in front of them has passed that same point.
  • Always Use Right and Left Turn Indicators: It's important for drivers to always use their turn signals when changing lanes or exiting highways, even if they don't see any other cars around. This is not only required by law, but it also reduces the chances of accidents occurring on the road.
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 Commercial Liability Insurance For Truckers Burlington, NC

Find Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), distracted driving is the primary reason behind truck driver accidents. Any activity that takes a driver's attention away from the road or the steering wheel is considered distracted driving. Distractions can come in various forms, such as eating while driving or gazing at a billboard outside the window. However, the most frequent form of distracted driving is the use of cellphones, specifically texting while driving.

Assuming you or your driver's rigs are equipped with dual-facing cameras, try reviewing footage of an unsafe driving incident. Coach your drivers on ways to correct their unsafe behaviors or look up ways to do so yourself if you're the one operating the big rig. The bottom line is that when your drivers aren't distracted, they drive safer. And when they drive safer, the cost of 18-wheeler insurance in cityname, state can be reduced.

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 Commercial Truck Insurance Quote Burlington, NC

Ensuring the safety of your drivers begins with the safety of their vehicles. Trucks and tractor-trailers that do not receive regular maintenance, such as oil and brake pad changes, are more likely to experience breakdowns while on the road. Telematics devices provide real-time insight into engine and odometer data, including fault codes.

This information enables your mechanics to create comprehensive preventative maintenance schedules based on mileage, history of previous breakdowns, days, and more. Additionally, they can receive immediate notifications for critical fault codes. By implementing routine maintenance and proactive repair schedules, you can ensure that your vehicles are in top condition, minimizing the likelihood of breakdowns, which can help reduce the cost of trucker insurance.

 Low Priced Commercial Truck Insurance Burlington, NC phone Call Now

This approach aims to mitigate the risk of fatal crashes and injuries by proactively identifying and responding to potentially dangerous situations and making informed decisions while driving. By adopting defensive driving techniques, drivers can reduce their likelihood of accidents, thereby minimizing the need for expensive repairs, claim payouts, and increased insurance premiums.

Some of the easiest ways for you or your drivers to practice safe driving include:

  • Be Wary of Blind Spots: Operating a reefer or tractor-trailer means driving high off of the ground, which can make visibility limited, especially in blind spots. To check your blind spot, look over your shoulder and out of your windows while changing lanes.
  • Be Ready for Emergencies on the Road: It's important for drivers to be ready for unexpected situations when driving, especially during long trips. They should be equipped to handle emergencies such as poor driving conditions or big rig breakdowns.
  • Use the Three-Second Rule: Truck drivers should try to maintain a three-second gap between their vehicle and the car in front of them. This means that the truck driver should reach a certain point on the road three seconds after the car in front of them has passed that same point.
  • Always Use Right and Left Turn Indicators: It's important for drivers to always use their turn signals when changing lanes or exiting highways, even if they don't see any other cars around. This is not only required by law, but it also reduces the chances of accidents occurring on the road.
Commercial Truck Insurance Burlington, NC phone Call Now

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), distracted driving is the primary reason behind truck driver accidents. Any activity that takes a driver's attention away from the road or the steering wheel is considered distracted driving. Distractions can come in various forms, such as eating while driving or gazing at a billboard outside the window. However, the most frequent form of distracted driving is the use of cellphones, specifically texting while driving.

Assuming you or your driver's rigs are equipped with dual-facing cameras, try reviewing footage of an unsafe driving incident. Coach your drivers on ways to correct their unsafe behaviors or look up ways to do so yourself if you're the one operating the big rig. The bottom line is that when your drivers aren't distracted, they drive safer. And when they drive safer, the cost of 18-wheeler insurance in cityname, state can be reduced.

 Truck Insurance Burlington, NC phone Call Now

check light FAQs About

Independence Insurance Agency

If you're looking for a commercial trucking insurance agency for your business, chances are you have some questions - and we've got answers. Keep reading to learn more about some of the most commonly asked questions we hear from truckers like you.

Why go with a "jack of all trades" when you can work with specialists who focus exclusively on transportation insurance? We have excellent relationships with major trucking insurance carriers and, as such, can provide the best assistance and reasonable rates.

Typically, companies will look at claims that date back three years or less.

We proudly work with more than 20 carriers to provide our clients with the most advantageous options at competitive prices, catering to the needs of owner-operators and big fleets alike.

Permit filings are typically done by insurance companies on the next business day. Federal (FMCSA) filings are completed online and updated immediately, while some states may take up to three weeks to process.

Independence Insurance Agency: Committed to the Trucking Industry

There's no question about it - you've got to protect your staff, your rig, and your trucking business with insurance. But choosing the right insurance partner isn't always easy. Thankfully, with Independence Insurance Agency by your side, you can rest easy knowing you're covered no matter where the road takes you. If you're in need of a commercial truck insurance agency in Burlington, NC that caters to truckers like you, pick up the phone and contact one of our transportation specialists today. That way, you can get back on the road with confidence tomorrow.

 Trucking Insurance Burlington, NC

Latest News in Burlington, NC

Burlington will curb PFAS discharges, per legal settlement with Haw River Assembly

Levels of toxic PFAS in Burlington’s wastewater have decreased more than 6,000% over the past three years and are expected to decline further, the result of a settlement agreement between the City and the Haw River Assembly finalized this week.The agreement requires Burlington ensure its current and future industrial sources control PFAS discharges before they enter the city’s treatment plants or the Haw River, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center, which represented the Haw River Assembly. The agreement requi...

Levels of toxic PFAS in Burlington’s wastewater have decreased more than 6,000% over the past three years and are expected to decline further, the result of a settlement agreement between the City and the Haw River Assembly finalized this week.

The agreement requires Burlington ensure its current and future industrial sources control PFAS discharges before they enter the city’s treatment plants or the Haw River, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center, which represented the Haw River Assembly. The agreement requires new and expanding industrial sources to disclose their use or discharge of PFAS. It also requires the city and its industrial sources to conduct extensive sampling using the latest methods to detect all PFAS, including precursor chemicals that degrade into measurable PFAS. This data will be available to the public on the city’s webpage.

Exposure to even very low levels of PFAS, short for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, has been linked to multiple health problems, including thyroid and liver disorders, kidney and testicular cancers, immune system deficiencies, obesity, high cholesterol, and reproductive and fetal development problems. There at least 12,000 types of PFAS, and they are found in water-, stain-, and grease-resistant products, like furniture, carpeting, clothing, microwave popcorn bags and fast-food packaging. PFAS are also found in AFFF firefighting foam.

The Haw River has long been a dumping ground for PFAS pollution from upstream textile and manufacturing industries, Haw Riverkeeper Emily Sutton said.

“This agreement is a huge win for a cleaner, safer Haw River and downstream communities,” said Kelly Moser, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, in a prepared statement. “Now that we know the industrial sources of the PFAS in Burlington’s discharges, the city will take—and require its industrial sources to take—significant measures to prevent future pollution while reporting its results to the public.”

The City will also perform sampling to characterize the contribution of PFAS and other chemicals from residential customers. The City and the Haw River Assembly will continue to share sampling results, which Burlington will continue to post to its website.

A spokesperson for the City of Burlington called the agreement a “win-win for the City and HRA as well as the citizens of North Carolina residing in the Haw River watershed.”

In November 2019, the Haw River Assembly notified Burlington officials that it intended to sue over the illegal discharges of PFAS and 1,4-Dioxane, a probable carcinogen. Although PFAS and 1,4-Dioxane aren’t regulated in drinking water by the EPA or the state, the SELC argued the compounds are subject to provisions of the Clean Water Act, which covers rivers, streams and lakes.

In 2020, the parties formalized a memorandum of agreement that required Burlington to investigate potential sources of PFAS and 1,4-Dioxane that were discharging into the City’s wastewater treatment plants. The East plant, which was later found to be receiving PFAS in wastewater from industry, discharges directly into the Haw River, the drinking water supply for the Town of Pittsboro.

The South plant, which has issues with 1,4-Dioxane, discharges into Big Alamance Creek, a tributary of the Haw.

Burlington contracted with a third-party to investigate the sources of PFAS; the Haw River Assembly enlisted Duke University scientists to analyze the wastewater and identify the types of PFAS it contained.

The City pinpointed one of its industrial customers, Elevate Textiles, as its largest source of PFAS. The new settlement agreement requires the company to install a closed-loop system to capture contaminated wastewater from its production lines that make medical and military products. The new system will keep PFAS from entering Burlington’s sewer system.

Although those products require the use of PFAS, Elevate Textiles has started phasing out its use of the compounds for its other products, according to the SELC. That phase-out will be complete by June 15, 2025.

There are other known sources of PFAS that discharge to the Burlington wastewater treatment plants, including the textile manufacturer Shawmut Corporation. That company and future industrial customers will also be prohibited from discharging PFAS. (Unichem Specialty Chemicals reported it stopped production as of June 30.)

The Alamance County Landfill and the Republic Landfill are also PFAS sources. Leachate — liquid from the landfill that is collected in tanks — is sent to wastewater treatment plants. However, that leachate often contains PFAS from the disposal of consumer products. When rain falls on the landfill, it carries contaminants to the leachate system.

Reducing the amount of PFAS entering the wastewater treatment plant addresses another problem: biosolids. Utilities often contract with companies to haul off the sludge, which is then spread on agricultural fields as fertilizer. When it rains, the PFAS in the biosolids can seep into the groundwater, contaminating nearby wells — or run off the property and into creeks.

The NC Department of Environmental Quality regulates wastewater treatment plants, but the municipalities regulate their own industrial users. That arrangement can create a conflict because cities and counties depend in part on fees paid by those industries to discharge into the plants. In effect, utilities can be held economically hostage by industry, who can choose not to expand or locate in an area, and instead seek laxer regulations elsewhere.

Last week, Burlington’s South wastewater treatment plant discharged a slug of 1,4-Dioxane that measured 160 parts per billion into Big Alamance Creek — far above the state’s recommended level of 0.35 ppb for surface water. By the time the compound entered Pittsboro’s drinking water supply, concentrations downstream had been diluted to 11.9 ppb. The EPA has not established a maximum level of 1,4-Dioxane in drinking water, but has set a health advisory goal of 35 ppb. However, that level is far less protective than the goal set for the chemical in rivers and streams. Since traditional water treatment systems can’t remove the compound, utilities can’t achieve the more protective goal.

The recent incident was “a dramatic spike from previous levels reported by the city to Haw River Assembly,” according to the SELC, which ranged from less than one to a high of 14 parts per billion. “The investigation developed by SELC, Haw River Assembly, and the city to identify the city’s PFAS sources lays the groundwork for the city’s investigation into the source of the recent spike of 1,4-dioxane,” the SELC wrote.

That investigation is ongoing.

Burlington goes social with a newly formed downtown social district

BURLINGTON, N.C. — Burlington joins nearby cities Greensboro, and High Point by forming a social district.Within the marked boundaries, you're able to consume alcoholic beverages, while shopping at participating businesses.Despite the poor weather, Ted Gross with The Mini Dingo says the inaugural weekend has been a success."Nobody wants to b...

BURLINGTON, N.C. — Burlington joins nearby cities Greensboro, and High Point by forming a social district.

Within the marked boundaries, you're able to consume alcoholic beverages, while shopping at participating businesses.

Despite the poor weather, Ted Gross with The Mini Dingo says the inaugural weekend has been a success.

"Nobody wants to be part of a sleepy downtown. You want to be a part of a situation where people can come, have a beer and have dinner and kind of be where the action is at the end of the day. So, getting people out on the street and having a beverage and creating some activity for people is a benefit for the entire community," said Gross.

Persnickety Books Co-Owner, Shawna Gentert says they've supported the idea of forming a social district from the start.

Although her business doesn't sell alcohol, they do allow shoppers, with the specially marked social district cup, to sip and shop.

"We pride ourselves on not only being a bookstore but a social hub so it's a perfect partnership for us. We've got some great seating and sometimes the restaurants are very full and very busy and people don't have to just stand around. They can linger, look around and maybe discover that we have a used bookstore downtown that they didn't know about before," said Gentert.

Businesses in Greensboro and High Point say their social district has been a huge success.

Earlier this year, Greensboro added a second social district along State Street.

As news spreads, other cities are looking at adding a social district of their own, including uptown Charlotte.

For Gross and Gentert, they welcome any opportunity to bring business downtown.

A part of the city where small businesses are almost exclusively locally owned.

"We rely on the locals and the surrounding communities to come downtown and meet us and be a part of what we're doing revitalizing downtown Burlington," said Gentert.

"We're glad to be a part of the whole growth of downtown, the revitalization of downtown and anything that creates excitement about what we're doing, we're all for it," said Gross.

Hours for the social district are Friday and Saturday from noon until 10 p.m.

Pittsboro warns residents that 1,4-dioxane could be in drinking water. What to know.

The City of Burlington released an industrial chemical and probable human carcinogen from one of its wastewater treatment plants eight days ago, it informed Pittsboro on Friday.Pittsboro’s drinking water intake is located on the Haw River, about 30 miles downstream of Burlington.The chemical that was released is 1,4-dioxane, a chemical used as an industrial solvent t...

The City of Burlington released an industrial chemical and probable human carcinogen from one of its wastewater treatment plants eight days ago, it informed Pittsboro on Friday.

Pittsboro’s drinking water intake is located on the Haw River, about 30 miles downstream of Burlington.

The chemical that was released is 1,4-dioxane, a chemical used as an industrial solvent that is difficult for water treatment plants to remove.

Information about how much may have made its way into Pittsboro’s drinking water is not immediately available because labs that test water samples within 24 hours don’t work on weekends. Burlington officials informed Pittsboro about the release Friday afternoon as soon as they learned about it, according to a press release from the town.

Saturday morning, the town announced that it had partnered with Chatham Marketplace to offer free reverse osmosis-treated water to Pittsboro water customers and Aqua NC customers who receive water from Pittsboro. Customers can use code 64261 to fill water containers for free. The town recommends bringing water containers as the store has a limited supply.

“When a release of this type occurs, most of the substance flows downstream together,” Colby Sawyer, a Pittsboro spokesman, wrote in a statement. “The dilution and speed of travel of this bulked substance, or slug, is based on how fast and at what volume the river is flowing.

“We are unsure whether the ‘slug’ has gotten to us yet, is hitting us now, or has already passed us. As a result, we are uncertain of how much, if any, 1,4 dioxane may be in our finished water. We cannot answer these questions until we receive our testing results.”

The town is recommending that people with “sensitive health conditions” avoid drinking the water until it is clear that the chemical isn’t or is no longer impacting the town.

Until tests come back Monday or Tuesday, Pittsboro is drawing as little water as it can from the river, Sawyer wrote. To help with that, Pittsboro is asking residents to cut down on non-essential uses like watering lawns, filling pools or washing cars.

Burlington’s samples from Sept. 14 detected concentrations of more than 1,200 parts per billion of 1,4-dioxane entering one of their wastewater treatment plants and then a concentration of 459 parts per billion leaving the facility.

For reference, a June release of 1,4-dioxane from Burlington involved concentrations as high as 160 parts per billion leaving a wastewater plant. That slug took a week to make its way downstream to Pittsboro’s drinking water intake and then 10 days to clear entirely from its system.

It is not uncommon for routine water tests to take about a week to come back, Sawyer told The News & Observer on Friday. Pittsboro conducts its own routine testing of its intake and drinking water.

“It happens to be that we are about a week downstream. ... When they let us know (they have a discharge), we have to immediately start taking action. That’s just the nature of geography and hydrology,” Sawyer said.

The 1,4-dioxane in Burlington comes from industrial customers who have agreements with the City to discharge their wastewater.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which classifies 1,4-dioxane as a likely human carcinogen, has set a health advisory goal of 35 parts per billion in finished drinking water. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality has set in-stream target values of 0.35 parts per billion in waters that provide drinking water, but an effort to codify that was struck back by the Rules Review Commission last year.

Earlier this year, Burlington reached a settlement with the Haw River Assembly to track which companies sending it wastewater were causing discharges of forever chemicals and require them to either change their processes or cut down on releases. The city pledged at the time that it would undertake a similar effort with 1,4-dioxane.

The regulatory reform bill the General Assembly passed on Friday includes provisions requiring the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a health assessment for 1,4-dioxane and the N.C. Policy Collaboratory to evaluate ways to remove the chemical from wastewater that is being discharged.

This story was produced with financial support from the Hartfield Foundation and the 1Earth Fund, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work.

This story was originally published September 22, 2023, 6:14 PM.

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Adam Wagner covers climate change and other environmental issues in North Carolina. His work is produced with financial support from the Hartfield Foundation and 1Earth Fund, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. Wagner’s previous work at The News & Observer included coverage of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and North Carolina’s recovery from recent hurricanes. He previously worked at the Wilmington StarNews.

The City of Burlington's landmark settlement to cut PFAS pollution

When Burlington tested its water in 2019 because of a state mandate, it found something shocking: PFAS levels in the Haw River were over 33,000 parts per trillion.The man-made contaminants, known as forever chemicals, are found in thousands of consumer products. They’re used in manufacturing, and they were coming out of the city’s wastewater treatment plant at frightening levels, given the high level of toxicity with even very small amounts.The Haw is a tributary of the Cape Fear River, meaning that pollution reache...

When Burlington tested its water in 2019 because of a state mandate, it found something shocking: PFAS levels in the Haw River were over 33,000 parts per trillion.

The man-made contaminants, known as forever chemicals, are found in thousands of consumer products. They’re used in manufacturing, and they were coming out of the city’s wastewater treatment plant at frightening levels, given the high level of toxicity with even very small amounts.

The Haw is a tributary of the Cape Fear River, meaning that pollution reached the drinking water of nearly a million people.

Geoff Gisler is an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, which filed a claim against Burlington on behalf of the Haw River Assembly, a nonprofit founded in the early 1980s to protect the river and Jordan Lake. They pushed the city to enforce the Clean Water Act to reduce pollution coming from the wastewater treatment plant.

“The way that the law is set up, is that it gives community groups and citizen groups the chance to go to step into the state's shoes when the state's not enforcing the law,” Gisler said.

That 2019 notice of intent to sue led to testing. The city figured out how bad the pollution was, and eventually learned exactly who the biggest polluters were.

Bob Patterson, Burlington’s water resources director, said the litigation and settlement were really a collaborative effort. The final part of the settlement changed the city permits to require the major polluters — which are two textile manufacturers — to use closed-loop systems. That means their contamination doesn’t end up in the treatment plant, and doesn’t end up in the river.

"Both are what are called 'significant industrial users,'" Patterson explained. "We have an industrial pretreatment program that is, overseen by DEQ. So we have local control, we do local permits for our industries."

That meant the city was able to modify its permits for the factories, requiring them to clean up their wastewater before sending it to the treatment plant.

These changes drastically reduced the amount of PFAS entering the water. Instead of 33,000 parts per trillion in the Haw, the latest tests show under 600 parts per trillion.

But Patterson said there’s still work to do — the other biggest polluters are the two landfills in the area: “They don't create or produce PFAS either, it's in everything that is brought to the landfills, that decomposes and the liquid is collected from the bottom.”

Ongoing research will determine how to handle that leachate from the bottom of landfills and, perhaps, destroy the forever chemicals. But there isn't a process set in stone for leachate quite yet.

Regardless, advocates are thrilled with the progress. Haw River Keeper Emily Sutton says Burlington was a great partner in solving the problem — and that other cities should take note.

“So I'm hopeful that this can be a roadmap for other utilities, and the state will require wastewater treatment plants to really understand what is coming through their wastewater systems, and how to stop it," Sutton said.

Other wastewater treatment plants along the river are continuing to pollute it, including Greensboro and Reedsville, which both have discharge permits coming up for public review. While every wastewater treatment plant likely deals with PFAS and 1,4 dioxane to some degree, it's those in cities with significant manufacturers that are often the largest polluters.

The legal strategy of modifying permits has benefits. It doesn’t require public institutions to buy or install expensive filters. The cost falls on the manufacturer that's using or creating PFAS, rather than on the consumer. That's a far cry from past problems in the Cape Fear region, where Chemours put GenX in the river, and it fell on drinking water utilities like CFPUA to try and filter it out.

Patterson said the textile plants in his city took the news fairly well. They had questions, but they were aware that PFAS are on their way out of fashion, so to speak.

“They've been working with the chemical industries to develop, as I understand it, alternative chemicals that are thought to be much safer than the PFAS compounds that provide the same benefits that consumers are used to," he said.

Patterson said he’s been getting calls from wastewater treatment plants and engineering firms across the country who want to learn from what they did. Burlington is on the cutting edge of enforcement, it seems.

But Emily Sutton wants to see this kind of regulation come from the state.

“There's a process here that the state needs to be requiring for every discharger," she said. "It should not be on the backs of small environmental nonprofits and our amazing team at Southern Environmental Law Center to figure this out to protect our communities and to enforce the Clean Water Act. The state knows how to do this, they are required to do this. And they need to be holding polluters accountable.”

'It's personal': Burlington founder develops technology to destroy PFAS after losing loved one to cancer

For Jacob Printz, a conversation with his mom, Michele, marked the ceremonial end to his work day."I would call her before I left the parking lot every single day,” Printz said through tears. “I miss her.”WRAL News BriefMichele Printz passed away in January from a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. She spent decades living on military bases with contaminated drinking water that contained per- and polyflouroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as "forever chemicals."Jacob and...

For Jacob Printz, a conversation with his mom, Michele, marked the ceremonial end to his work day.

"I would call her before I left the parking lot every single day,” Printz said through tears. “I miss her.”

WRAL News Brief

Michele Printz passed away in January from a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. She spent decades living on military bases with contaminated drinking water that contained per- and polyflouroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as "forever chemicals."

Jacob and his uncle, Steve Wilcenski, believe that the tainted water played a role in Michele's illness.

Recent studies have identified many types of PFAS as endocrine-disrupting chemicals that may contribute to breast cancer risk and development.

"Losing Michele really invigorated us and got us focused on solving the PFAS problem in drinking water, Wilcenski said.

WRAL Documentary: 'Forever Chemicals: North Carolina's Toxic Tap Water'

Wilcenski founded Invicta Water, a company that uses material science to clean water, where Jacob is now a research engineering associate.

"For us, it's much more than a business," Wilcenski said. "It's personal."

The Invicta team discovered a way to use boron nitride and UV light to create a chemical reaction the destroys PFAS particles, without toxic byproducts.

"We wanted to not just remove the chemical, but destroy it," Wilcenski said. "And in a way that was simple, cost-effective and easy to implement."

Wilcenski estimates Invicta's process is 75% cheaper than current systems used by water treatment plants to remove PFAS, including Cape Fear Public Utility Authority in Wilmington.

Invicta's system also doesn't need costly maintenance or disposal required with filter systems.

After tests in Navy and Elon University laboratories showed that the process works, Wilcenski says they are planning to pilot large-scale applications for water treatment and industrial use.

Invicta is also developing at-home versions of the system for wells and countertops.

Printz and Wilcenski hope that if they can develop technology to eradicate chemicals in drinking water, they can prevent others from going through the heartbreak that they faced with Michelle's death.

“I want to make her proud," Printz said. "And, I know we will.”

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