NORTH BENNINGTON >> As the governor signs new legislation on Wednesday aiming to address hazardous chemicals in drinking water, state environmental officials will be reviewing plans to extend water lines to homes affected by PFOA.
Gov. Peter Shumlin will visit North Bennington to sign a bill that legislators say strengthens the state's laws around contamination and gives officials more power to go after polluters.
Meanwhile, it will cost nearly $18 million to extend municipal water lines in Bennington and the village of North Bennington, or $13.7 million and $4.2 million, respectively, according to two engineering reports under state review. But it's unclear who would pay for the upgrades to homes affected by the potentially harmful, man-made chemical — neither the state, the company believed to be responsible for the contamination, nor the municipalities have committed to the multi-million dollar infrastructure projects.
Of 432 private wells, 227 tested positive for levels of the man-made chemical PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, above what state environmental officials say is safe. The state's health advisory limit is 20 parts per trillion (ppt) for drinking water; testing found levels as high as 2,730 ppt. Of the 432 wells tested, 50 had levels below 20 ppt. No PFOA was found in the remaining 155 wells.
Shumlin in Bennington
Shumlin will meet with village trustees at noon at the train depot, where he will sign Bill H.595.
The legislation, "An act relating to potable water supplies from surface waters," was first proposed by state Rep. Robert Krebs, D-South Hero. Amendments from state Senators Brian Campion and Dick Sears, D-Bennington, included provisions to allow the Agency of Natural Resources to request information from manufacturers, including financial information as well as the type of chemicals used, the dangers of those chemicals and descriptions of releases.
The bill as written will create a "Working Group on Toxic Chemicals" to identify and regulate substances currently unregulated by the state and determine whether current regulations protect citizens from those substances.
The DEC Secretary would be appointed to a "Technical Advisory Committee." That body would determine whether groundwater should be tested before being used as a drinking water supply and, if so, under what circumstances it should be taken, who would take the sample and what contaminants should be tested.
State officials tested for PFOA near Bennington over concerns about nearby Hoosick Falls, N.Y. Officials in both Vermont and New York say the Saint-Gobain Corporation is potentially responsible for contamination in the respective states. Other companies are potentially responsible for contamination in Pownal and in Petersburgh, N.Y.
Saint-Gobain, a successor to ChemFab of North Bennington, agreed to fund engineering reports for the town and village municipal water systems. The French multinational company hired C.T. Male to work with the engineering firms representing the town and village. Both municipal systems are independent of each other; neither contain PFOA.
MSK Engineering and Design submitted a report to the state last week on behalf of the town. Otter Creek Engineering submitted North Bennington's on Monday. A DEC spokesperson said the agency is reviewing the plans this week.
In Bennington, the project would extend water mains to an additional 230 properties. Engineers identified two areas of town and broke them into three zones. Both Zones A and B are in the northwestern part of town. Zone C is north of the Route 279 interchange and includes the Apple Hill neighborhood.
In Zone A, a new water main would run from Fairview Street along Vail Road, down Austin Hill Road, west on Murphy Road and connect with an end point at North Bennington Road. Eaton Road, Bard Road, Red Pine Road, portions of Silk Road, Bridge Street and Cardinal Lane would be connected, according to the report.
In Zone B, a new main would bring water from Route 9 along Gypsy Lane to the end of an existing main on Walloomsac Road. Service would be extended to Pippin Knoll and Hill Shadow Farm Road and past the intersection of Walloomsac Road and Pippin Knoll.
Work in Zone C would extend service down Houghton Lane to Michaels Drive, Apple Hill and its side roads. Service would also be extended down Willow Road and Beck's Drive.
The project could be done in stages, the report states. Annual revenue from the extension would be $105,680 and annual maintenance, $18,675. The project would increase demand by an estimated 112,600 gallons per day (gpd). The current average daily demand is about 1.8 million gpd.
In North Bennington, the project would bring water to 34 properties with contaminated wells, with the potential for more properties hooking into it later. Lines would be extended down Matteson Road, Park Street, Harrington Road, McCullough Road, Scarey Lane, Asa's Way, Susan Taylor Lane, Murphy Road and Orebed Road.
Homes on Asa's Way and Susan Taylor Lane would likely not have sufficient water pressure because of their higher elevations, according to the report, and pressure could be nonexistent during high demand or when a fire hydrant is being used. Engineers recommended constructing a booster station, or a new water main along Park Street from West Street to River Road.
The project would increase demand by an estimated 8,000 gpd. The average daily demand is about 330,000 gpd when Bennington College is in session.
Construction of the Bennington system could be done by fall or winter of 2017, the report states. In North Bennington, work could be done by summer of 2017.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979