Bennington gauging residents' interest in municipal water connections


BENNINGTON — Town officials need to know how many residents impacted by PFOA in their drinking water wells want to be connected to municipal water.

About 450 letters have been mailed to residents who could be affected, Town Manager Stewart Hurd said. He said about 250 have been returned.

"They're running heavily in favor of being connected to municipal water," Hurd said on Wednesday. "But there are also some people who would prefer not to, even though their well is contaminated."

The town has also asked whether residents are interested in having a water shut off valve in their yard in case they decide to hook into the system in the future, he added.

It's important the letters are returned by the end of the month, Hurd said. They will be used to guide conversations with the Department of Environmental Conservation.

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, is a manmade chemical once used as a key processing agent during the manufacturing of Teflon. It's turned up in numerous drinking wells in the town and village, but not the public systems. Officials see water line extensions as the fastest way to bring clean water to affected homes. The contamination is believed to have come from the former ChemFab/Saint-Gobain site on Water Street in the village of North Bennington.

Engineers for the town and village estimate it will cost $32 million to connect impacted residents to municipal water.

DEC officials have said they're investigating the contamination and seeking a responsible party. Saint-Gobain, which DEC says is the potentially responsible party, has agreed to fund water treatment systems for homes and bottled water for residents. The multinational company has not signed a consent order holding it responsible for the contamination. DEC officials have said negotiations are ongoing and they seek to make the company pay for the multimillion dollar project.

"The town simply cannot afford the price tag we're talking about," Hurd said. "And frankly, it's one we shouldn't have to pay for. The municipal systems didn't cause the problem."

It will come down to whether a party will step-up to pay for the project, Hurd said.

"Does the state have a fight on its hands? That's to be determined," he said. "I hope that's not the route we have to take. I think that will ultimately delay the implementation of any corrective action."

Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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