NORTH BENNINGTON >> The state has announced that Saint-Gobain, the owner of the former Chemfab facility, will finance two engineering studies that will determine the feasibility and cost of expanding the municipal water supply to service Bennington and North Bennington residents affected by PFOA.
This wasn't the only piece of good news announced on Monday. It was also announced at an public meeting held by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, in partnership with the Vt. Department of Health, that preliminary soil testing results from around the former Chemfab facility in North Bennington show PFOA levels that do not pose significant risk of PFOA uptake into plants and vegetables from garden soils. The event was intended for residents of Bennington, North Bennington, and Shaftsbury, and was held in the Greenwall Auditorium of Bennington College's Visual and Performing Arts building (VAPA). Lieutenant governor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott was in attendance for the meeting, as well as several local representatives and a staff member of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The forum was led by Alyssa Schuren, commissioner of the DEC, who was joined by Tracy Dolan, deputy commissioner of the DOH, Chuck Schwer, director of the DEC's Waste Management and Prevention Division, and Richard Spiese, the DEC hazardous site manager who has been working on the Bennington and North Bennington PFOA contamination. "Since we last got together, there has been a lot going on," said Schuren.
Saint-Gobain has agreed to reimburse Bennington and North Bennington for the engineering studies, which will cost about $15,000 each. The company continues to pay for drinking water sampling of private wells in the area of the facility, supplies of bottled water for affected residents, and over 100 point of entry treatment systems. In addition to the over 300 private wells that Saint-Gobain financed, for which 232 results have come back, 126 of which measured as having higher than the state's advisory level for PFOA, 20 parts per trillion, the state collected an additional 64 samples last week from Old Bennington south to Route 9, and from areas around the Bennington landfill, where it is known that waste from the Chemfab facility was deposited. Schuren clarified that all five of the samples taken at the landfill came back positive, with levels ranging from 18 and 140 ppt. Other area landfills are also being investigated.
Regarding the soil testing, according to a press release from Gov. Peter Shumlin's office, "more than 100 soil samples were collected from locations surrounding the former Chemfab facility in North Bennington to determine if soil contamination exists around the former plant. Preliminary results show PFOA levels ranging from non-detect to 45 parts per billion in the tested soils, with the majority of samples containing less than 10 parts per billion. The Vermont Department of Health soil screening level is 300 parts per billion." Dolan said that the 300 ppb level was set by a DOH toxicologist and risk assessor, and that information about why the acceptable concentration of PFOA in soil is so much higher than the acceptable concentration in water will be available on their website in the near future.
The state continues to regularly test the Bennington municipal water supply, which continues to come back as free of PFOA. No PFOA was found in the water or soil at Lake Paran, although levels were detected at two sites along Paran Creek, with the highest levels detected where the creek meets the Walloomsac River. A site on Northside Drive, adjacent to the river, was the original location of Chemfab. Soil at four farms outside of the testing area have also been tested, and maple syrup from a local farm, have all also been tested, with each coming back clean.
Schuren assured the residents in attendance that the state would continue to do everything it could to help the residents affected, "No one has any intention of leaving you behind."
If you live in Bennington, North Bennington, Shaftsbury, or Pownal, you can request a soil test by visiting the DEC's website, at www.anr.state.vt.us/dec/PFOA.htm. For more information, you can do so by dialing 2-1-1.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.