SHAFTSBURY — The Select Board updated the public about the discovery of PFOA in the town's closed landfill at a special meeting on Monday.
The state's Department of Environmental Conservation asked the town to test the landfill, which operated from 1967 to 2006, in June, due to its proximity to North Bennington, where several wells have tested positive for the chemical that was used in the manufacturing of Teflon, and the fact that the landfill was open during the period of time that PFOA was in use. The municipal water supply has been tested, and came back clean.
The sample tested showed that PFOA was present in the landfill at a concentration of 25 parts per trillion, just above the state limit of 20 ppt. The Environmental Protection Agency has released an advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion. According to representatives from the Bennington office of the state's Department of Health, a correlation has been found between PFOA and various illnesses, but causation has not been sufficiently determined by studies. They said that, should exposure to PFOA be limited, its concentration in the human body decreases by about half every two to four years.
The board was joined by Chuck Schwer, director of DEC's Waste Management and Prevention Division. "We're hoping this isn't going to be anything near what we found at the Chemfab plant," he said, "We're hoping it's very limited in terms of scope. But I'll be honest, we're not 100 percent sure, that's why we're doing the testing."
The state has determined that the town of Shaftsbury, as the owner and operator of the landfill, is the party responsible for funding the removal of the chemical. "Everything in that landfill was done according to state regulations," said Select Board member Ken Harrington, who disagreed with the state's assessment, "In my mind, that would make the state liable, not us."
"As owner and operator of the landfill, you are responsible for what is put in there," said Schwer, "Fair or not, that's the law." He suggested that the town work with state Rep. Alice Miller, D-Bennington 3, who was present, to seek state and federal funding options to help pay for the cleanup. He said if an industrial source for the PFOA is discovered, that company could also be held responsible.
"It seems odd to me that the business and industry around who were responsible for producing this chemical cannot be held responsible," said Miller, who vowed to seek federal funding to support the town.
Private well owners within one quarter mile of the landfill are eligible to receive bottled water, provided by the town, at the town offices on Buck Hill Road between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Alternate arrangements can be made by contacting the town at 802-442-4038 ext. 3.
The town, through a consultant, will be performing testing of private wells within a quarter mile of the landfill. DEC has attempted to identify and notify all residences in this area, and is asking those who have not been contacted to call 802-828-1138. The sampling is expected to take place within the next seven to 10 days.
The Vermont Department of Health is also available to speak with those who have concerns about the potential health effects of PFOA, at 800-439-8550.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.