POWNAL — A carbon filtration system that will remove PFOA from the water is expected to be installed at the Pownal Fire District No. 2 well by the end of the month.
The Fire District No. 2 Prudential Committee voted to approve the filtration system's installation in late April. Initial estimates suggested that it would take six to eight weeks to get the system up and running after the permitting process was completed, including testing.
Chuck Schwer, director of the Department of Environmental Conservation's Waste Management and Prevention Division, said on Monday that the state received the last pieces of information necessary for the permit application process earlier that day.
The project is being paid for by American Premier Underwriters. The state said in April that APU is the party "potentially responsible" for contamination at the former Warren Wire No. 1 manufacturing facility on Route 346. Tests have found PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, in water samples from the municipal system and nearby private wells. The man-made chemical was used to make Teflon for decades. Studies have linked it with cancer and other diseases.
APU is a successor to the Penn Central Corporation, the company that purchased GK Technologies. GK Technologies was formerly known as General Cable and purchased the 123,000-square-foot building from Warren Wire in 1963.
Francisco Trejo of Unicorn Management Consultants is APU's environmental consultant on the project. He spoke with Pownal residents on Monday to update them on the progress of getting the system installed. He said they don't expect installation to take more than eight hours. Based on that estimate, usage rates, and the size of the holding tank, he said that Pownal residents should not see a gap in their service. He clarified that there would be enough water, even if a fire occurred during that time.
Trish Coppolino, project manager with DEC, said the used carbon from the filtration system will be disposed of regularly, likely monthly at first. The best method appears to be incineration to ensure that PFOA does not find its way back into the environment.
Once the filter is installed, the state will test the water before and after it is filtered.
"We'll go to quarterly monitoring when we know the system is effective," said Schwer, "We might ask for a little more initially."
Trejo said that, working with Coppolino, they had found a lab that could get results from samples back in five days, a significant improvement from the two weeks the lab they had been using requires.
The filtration system is intended to be a short-term solution. Options for a longer-term solution are still being discussed and investigated. About 450 residences get their water from Fire District No. 2.
Coppolino also updated residents on the ongoing testing of private wells.
"To date we've collected exactly 100 samples, and out of all those samples we've seen five over 20 parts per trillion," she said.
That amount is the state's limit for PFOA in drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently adopted 70 ppt as its advisory limit.
Coppolino said that within the last week, 36 additional wells were tested on Route 346 between Cedar Hill Road and North Pownal Road. Residents who would like to sign up for well testing should visit dec.vermont.gov/commissioners-office/pfoa. Maps of the affected areas and more information are also available at that site.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.