PFOA found in handful of Pownal wells

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POWNAL — Water testing found four private wells in Pownal have the potentially harmful chemical PFOA in levels above the state's limit, the governor's office announced Wednesday.

State environmental officials are also making headway in studying soil for the potentially harmful chemical found in private wells in North Bennington and a municipal water system serving the village of Pownal.

And in what is being called a "welcome early sign" of studies on soil, PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, was not found in maple syrup collected in North Bennington.

The Pownal results will be discussed at a public meeting on Tuesday, April 19, at 6 p.m. at the elementary school.

Results were returned for 63 well samples from Pownal. Of those 63 samples, four were found to have PFOA above the state's health advisory limit of 20 parts per trillion (ppt), the highest level being 66 ppt. Seven samples had levels below the limit. In 52 samples, PFOA was not detected, according to the governor's office.

Several spots in the village of Pownal Center found to have undetectable levels are: Pownal Elementary School, Oak Hill Children's Center, the Pownal town offices and the Cozy Meadow Mobile Home Park.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation tested water from the Pownal Fire District No. 2, a municipal water system serving about 450 customers, over concerns of past activities at the former Warren Wire factory on Route 346. The state has since advised people with private wells within one mile of the factory to stop using tap water for drinking and cooking, and has also begun testing well water.

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, was used to make Teflon for decades. Studies have linked it with cancer and other diseases.

In North Bennington, where the state has collected water samples from 232 private wells, officials suspect the contamination source is the former Chem-Fab plant. The Saint-Gobain Corporation owned the facility when it closed in 2002 and, while the state has not officially identified Saint-Gobain as the contamination source, the company said it would reimburse the state for installation of water filters on every affected home.

The state collected sediment samples from around the village and received results from Paran Lake, Paran Creek Mill Ponds, the Walloomsac River, and a small pond in North Bennington.

Three samples had PFOA levels ranging from 1.2 to 2.4 parts per billion (ppb), and four samples had undetectable levels.

"The highest concentration of 2.4 ppb was found in the Walloomsac River and is considerably lower than the concentration in sediment that would pose a risk to human health or the most sensitive aquatic species," according to the update from the governor's office.

The EPA's "action level," or the amount that warrants a response, for PFOA is 15.6 parts per million, or, 15,600 ppb.

Officials collected three maple syrup samples in North Bennington two weeks ago, according to the governor's office, and tests did not detect PFOA.

The Agency of Agriculture and the Department of Environmental Conservation are working to determine how PFOA affects soils and the agricultural activity. More soil results are expected within a week.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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