State says Shaftsbury responsible for bottled water, well test costs after PFOA found in landfill

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SHAFTSBURY >> The town will pay to provide bottled water and well tests for some residents after a potentially harmful chemical was found at the old landfill.

The state says the town is responsible for responding to PFOA in groundwater at the site, according to Select Board Chairman Tim Scoggins.

He noted the man-made chemical and suspected carcinogen has not been found in private drinking wells around the town owned site on North Road.

"We're cooperating with the state and doing what we're being told to do," Scoggins told the Banner on Friday.

The town has agreed to test private wells and provide bottled water to residents within a quarter mile radius of the landfill. That includes homes on North Road; Reddy Road; the end of Bahan Road; and the section of Airport Road between street junctions with North and Simeon Dean Roads.

Residents are encouraged to attend the next Select Board meeting on Monday, July 25, at 6:30 p.m. at Cole Hall, Scoggins said. State environmental and public health officials will attend to answer questions.

The town is the "responsible party" because it is in charge of maintaining the capped landfill, according to Danika Frisbie, public information coordinator for the Department of Environmental Conservation. An investigation is needed to determine how widespread PFOA contamination is at the landfill. More monitoring wells will be tested within the next several weeks.

The DEC has identified 26 wells to be tested, according to Scoggins. It will take a couple of weeks for technicians to gather samples, send them to labs and receive the results.

The municipal water system that serves Shaftsbury and North Bennington is not affected and is safe to drink, officials say.

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, was used for decades to make the nonstick coating Teflon. Studies have linked it to cancer and other diseases. It's been found in some water supplies around North Bennington, Bennington and Pownal, and near Bennington's former landfill of Houghton Lane. In New York, it's been found in Hoosick and Petersburgh.

DEC asked the town last month to test the five-acre landfill, which the town operated from 1967 until it was capped in 2006.

Two samples from groundwater monitoring wells had PFOA levels of 25 and 22 parts per trillion (ppt), Scoggins said. Those results hover above Vermont's 20 ppt limit for drinking water, the strictest in the country. The EPA calls the chemical an "emerging contaminant" and this year reduced the federal limit from 400 ppt to 70 ppt.

It wasn't clear how much well tests and water will cost the town. Scoggins estimated the short-term cost for bottled water to be in the low $1,000s.

"But depending on how widespread the problem is, long-term cost could be significant," he said.

Frisbie said there are no immediate plans to seek parties that may have disposed of waste at the landfill. Records don't exist for much of the time it operated, she said.

"The first priority is to make sure no one is drinking water with PFOA levels over the limit," she said.

Residents within a quarter mile of the landfill can pick up cases of bottled water at the town clerk's office between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Residents with questions should call the town office at 802-442-4038, ext. 3. Scoggins said that the first delivery was expected sometime Friday afternoon.

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


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