SHAFTSBURY — The Select Board has written a letter to the state, stating that the town should not be considered responsible for PFOA contamination in the closed landfill.
The letter is addressed to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alyssa Schuren, and reads, "The Shaftsbury Select Board and the citizens of our town urge you to reconsider the designation of the Town of Shaftsbury as responsible party for PFOA pollution at our closed landfill. It is not fair or appropriate to blame Shaftsbury for pollution in the same way that you blame a chemical company that profited from pollution. Since PFOA was found in very low levels in a monitoring well at the closed Shaftsbury landfill, we have been cooperating with the state to provide bottled water for residents and to do further testing in nearby residential wells. However, please note that by providing bottled water and well testing as ordered, we are not admitting responsibility for PFOA contamination of groundwater at the landfill."
"As we contemplate our next steps," the letter continues, "our citizens are justifiably concerned about the potential cost of cleanup. In a worst case scenario, Shaftsbury could see hundreds of thousands of dollars in cleanup costs, depending on the results of well water tests. It could prove more than we can bear. It makes sense that a company that profited from pollution should have to pay to clean it up. It's harder to understand why a town like Shaftsbury that acted in the public interest by operating a state-regulated landfill should be treated the same way. The task of dealing with solid waste is a statewide endeavor, executed locally under state law. Dealing with PFOA contamination from landfills is a state problem, not a burden that can or should be borne by the unlucky town.
"We are asking the state to help us with the cost of PFOA cleanup," the letter concludes, "PFOA pollution is a statewide issue that requires a statewide response, not just uncovering it, but cleaning it up."
State Rep. Alice Miller, D-Bennington-3, said she personally delivered the letter on Monday to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and state Sens. Dick Sears and Brian Campion, both Democrats serving the Bennington District, and she said she had mailed the letter to Gov. Peter Shumlin.
The state asked the town to test the landfill for the substance in June due to its proximity to Bennington, where PFOA had been discovered in a closed landfill. 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 federal Environmental Protection Agency has released an advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion.
Some 26 residential wells within a quarter mile of the landfill are currently being tested for the substance, which was used in the manufacture of Teflon and other products.
Shaftsbury is the first municipality to be declared the responsible party for PFOA contamination in the state. Saint-Gobain is considered the likely responsible party in North Bennington and Bennington, and American Premier Underwriters was responsible for cleanup in Pownal.
According to representatives from the Bennington office of the state's Department of Health at a special meeting of the Shaftsbury Select Board last week, 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.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.