State officials checking N. Bennington water for hazardous chemical

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NORTH BENNINGTON >> State environmental officials are investigating if the same man-made chemical found in a New York village's water was ever used in Bennington, and if so, whether it's in the local water supply.

Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) staff collected water samples from several sites in town on Tuesday, according to Matt Moran, environmental program manager for the DEC's hazardous sites program.

Describing it as an "abundance of caution," Moran said samples were taken from the town's wastewater filtration plant on Harrington Road, the village of North Bennington's water system, and several private wells in North Bennington.

Moran said the DEC is investigating whether perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) may have been used at the H.C. White Mil complex at 940 and 1030 Water St. in North Bennington, where the former ChemFeb company operated for over 30 years.

"At this point, unlike in Hoosick Falls, we have zero evidence of contamination," Moran said Tuesday. He said it's unlikely the town's municipal system contains PFOA, a processing agent once used to make Teflon. "But in this case, given the level of concern of what's going on with our neighbor in New York, we wanted to take the immediate step of sampling and verify if there were any issues or not."

PFOA is believed to cause cancer and other diseases. The EPA has told Hoosick Falls, N.Y. residents not to drink the tap water and recommended private wells be tested.

Town Manager Stewart Hurd said local officials are "pretty certain that our water source is not contaminated with any material." He said the town's primary water source, Bolles Brook in Woodford, is "pretty pristine." The water is filtered at the water treatment plant on Harrington Road.

ChemFab operated in one part of the historic mill complex between 1968 and 2002 and made specialized fabrics with a Teflon-like coating. ChemFab and its holdings were bought by the Saint-Gobain Corporation in 2000, according to Banner archives.

The French multinational company operates Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Hoosick Falls and employes some 200 people. Its two facilities in the village were added to the New York State Superfund, a move Gov. Andrew Cuomo said would accelerate a cleanup. Saint-Gobain was one party the state identified as being "potentially responsible" for the contamination. The second, Honeywell International, is a successor to companies that previously operated in the village.

Moran said no investigation had ever been done into whether there was a PFOA releases at the mill complex.

He said the samples had to be sent out of state because no lab in Vermont could test for PFOA.

State Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington, said he has had concerns about having clean drinking water in Bennington and other Vermont towns. He said he's spoken with DEC Commissioner Alyssa Schuren and DEC Deputy Secretary Trey Martin about the issue, and has requested officials take a closer look at Vermont's toxic sites.

Campion said he was impressed by the DEC's response and is eager to see test results. But he added, "I still think we have to identify other possible hazardous sights and make certain the necessary steps are taken to protect Vermonters."

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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