pownal pfas

Workers install a temporary PFOA filtering system in 2016 at the Pownal Fire District 2 well head off Route 346. The temporary system will be replaced with a permanent filtering system next year.

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POWNAL — Multiple millions of dollars will be needed to construct and maintain a water filtration system for a local water and fire district here, but town taxpayers won’t be footing the bill, according to a state action plan.

A new permanent facility to filter industrial chemicals from the Pownal Fire District 2 water system will cost $2,112,000 from design through expected start-up and testing next year, according to recent estimates.

In addition, a corrective action plan for replacement of the temporary filtering system for PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and related chemicals estimates operation and maintenance costs over a 30-year period at $3,311,000 — bringing the total estimated project cost to $5,423,000. Those cumulative expenses will be handled by an insurer.

The action plan, which is subject to a public comment period through Oct. 4, will be the topic of a Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation information session Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Pownal Rescue Squad building at 22 Ladd Road.

Graham Bradley, hazardous sites manager with the DEC’s Waste Management and Prevention Division, will attend the informational session.

MILESTONE MOMENT

The project represents a milestone in the water district’s and the town’s efforts to deal with PFOA and other chemicals that were discovered in 2016 in the district’s well off Route 346. The pollution was verified in well water not long after similar pollution was detected in wells near other industrial sites in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., and Bennington.

The water district’s well head is about 1,000 feet from the former Warren Wire/General Cable plant, which is considered the source of the chemicals.

The district water system has had a temporary filter in place near the well off Route 346 since 2016, when elevated levels of PFOA and other PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) chemicals were discovered in the system — believed to have emanated from the nearby former General Cable plant.

The district well, which serves about 400 residents in southern Pownal, was drilled during the 1990s, before perfluorooctanoic acid was recognized as a threat to groundwater supplies.

PROJECT START

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Bradley said in an email that project construction is expected to start in April 2023 and continue through August, according to the action plan, and a system start-up contractor will begin that process then.

Addressing the 30-year time frame regarding maintenance costs, he said, “Thirty years is the common standard for calculating long-term costs associated with operation and maintenance. The continued need for operation and maintenance of the treatment system beyond 30 years will need to be reassessed at that time.”

Bradley also noted that further corrective action plans are expected involving the former factory site.

“The document which we are inviting public comment on is titled the ‘Interim Corrective Action Plan,’” he said. “This is because it addresses the immediate issue of preventing PFAS entering the public water system. We anticipate an additional Corrective Action Plan to address soil and groundwater PFAS contamination. There are ongoing investigations to determine the degree and extent of PFAS contamination associated with the former General Cable property.”

Bradley said he can be reached regarding further questions about the project at grahame.bradley@vermont.gov or 802-622-4129.

The corrective action is posted on the state’s Environmental Notice Bulletin site at enb.vermont.gov.

FUNDED BY FIRM

Bradley said American Premier Underwriters, which paid for construction of the current temporary filtering system off Route 346, is expected to pay for the permanent system and related costs as well.

The action plan was drafted and submitted to the DEC for approval by Unicorn Management Consultants, a firm hired by American Premier Underwriters in 2016 to investigate the contamination and develop remediation options. American Premier Underwriters is considered a potentially responsible party for the contamination.

The current owner of the property — Mack-Pownal Realty, which is related to Mack Molding — purchased the factory site but did not continue operations with the PFAS chemicals.

The Arlington-based company has used the Pownal building as a warehouse.

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com

Reporter/editor

Jim Therrien reports for the three Vermont News and Media newspapers in Southern Vermont. He previously worked as a reporter and editor at the Berkshire Eagle, the Bennington Banner, the Springfield Republican, and the former North Adams Transcript.


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