Community meeting on PFOA slated for Wednesday at Bennington College

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BENNINGTON — Municipal water line extensions, ongoing talks with the company believed to be responsible for the contamination, and long-term fixes to PFOA contamination will be the focus of a meeting on Wednesday.

The community meeting is slated for 6 p.m. at Bennington College's Tishman Lecture Hall. Local officials and those with the state's departments of environmental conservation and health are expected to attend.

According to a DEC spokesperson, the meeting will provide updates on: The maintenance plans for home filtration systems, a plan to re-sample water from private wells, blood tests for PFOA, and long-term remediation options.

More than 250 private wells were found to have elevated levels of PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid. PFOA was used for decades to make Teflon, the non-stick, oil and water repelling coating. PFOA has been linked to cause cancers, kidney and thyroid diseases, high cholesterol and other diseases. The state has tested about 525 individual wells since February. DEC believes the former ChemFab/Saint-Gobain Corporation plant on Water Street in the village of North Bennington, which closed in 2001, is the source.

DEC Commissioner Alyssa Schuren has said homes and businesses with impacted wells should be connected to the town's and village's municipal water systems, neither of which contain PFOA. Engineers estimated it will cost $32 million to extend water lines to about 264 properties. Schuren and others have said taxpayers shouldn't have to — and can't afford to — pay for an infrastructure project of that magnitude. The state has been in talks with the Saint-Gobain Corporation about picking up the tab.

In the meantime, the state says it will pay about $114,800 to connect nine impacted properties around Northside Drive to municipal water, according to Town Manager Stuart Hurd. Six of those connections involve running water lines from a shut-off valve to each building, he said. Three more connections on Waite Drive involve installing a four-inch water main and running water lines to three buildings. DEC and the town selected Hermann Construction Inc. of Manchester Center to complete the project and it's slated to be done by December, Hurd said.

He said the state will pay for that project, unless Saint-Gobain agrees to pay.

Saint-Gobain had agreed to fund bottled water for affected residents, and install point-of-entry (POET) filtration systems on impacted private wells. DEC required CT Male, the contractor hired by Saint-Gobain, to make a maintenance schedule for the filters. A final plan has not been adopted, but a draft Operation & Maintenance Manual was sent on Aug. 4.

The manual "presents the strategy to be employed for future sampling of the POET systems which have been installed at residences and business" to remove PFOA and other perfluoronated chemicals, DEC Counsel Matt Chapman wrote in a Sept. 6 letter to CT Male.

The DEC's Sites Management Section (SMS) requested changes to reflect the state's combined limit of 20 parts per trillion for PFOA and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The letter also requests CT Male submit all POET sampling data obtained to date in a spreadsheet "so that all findings can be evaluated independently if necessary. These data should be updated and resubmitted to the SMS at a minimum annual basis moving forward."

More information about the state's PFOA response is available at the DEC website http://dec.vermont.gov/commissioners-office/pfoa or by calling DEC at 802-828-1138.

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


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