North Bennington eyes use for PFOA soil

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NORTH BENNINGTON — The North Bennington Village Trustees are exploring using soil displaced from water line installation Route 67A to fill in and even out the terrain at Welling Field.

The topic was raised by trustee Mark Boudreau at the board's regular meeting on Tuesday. He said that, per conversations with the state, the top layer of soil at the park would be pulled back, the soil from the water line installations would be filled in, and the original soil would be placed back on top. At the conclusion of the project, the park's elevation would all be uniform to the park's current high point, which is near the soccer fields and train tracks.

Trustee Matthew Patterson said that the deal has the potential to be a win-win for both sides, but that he would prefer to approach it with caution, rather than just giving the state the go-ahead. The rest of the board agreed. "It sounds too good to be true," he said.

Widespread contamination by perfluorooctanoic acid, commonly referred to as PFOA, was discovered in 2016 in private wells and soil around a former ChemFab factory. State environmental officials determined the chemical had emanated from manufacturing processes involving baked-on Teflon coating of fabrics.

The North Bennington plant on Water Street/Route 67A operated from the late 1970s through 2002, when Saint-Gobain, which purchased the business in 2000, moved the operation to New Hampshire.

Construction of municipal water line extensions in Bennington and North Bennington village began last fall. The areas covered are to the west of Route 7A and a rail line. Overall, extension of water lines to all areas of the state-designated zone is estimated to cost more than $30 million.

Boudreau said that the state has no issue with using the soil to fill in Welling Field, which, like the soil from Route 67A, is within the PFOA contamination zone. "If we went up there and checked the field there, it would probably test the same as the soil they're digging up," said Boudreau. "So we're not putting any contaminated soil onto uncontaminated. And the reason (the state is) okay with this going on a ballfield is that it isn't anything that you run a risk by rolling around on the grass, it's by ingesting food that's growing there, things like that."

"That was one of my first questions," he said, "are we bringing something we shouldn't be into a ballfield, but they said that's not an issue." He said he was also told that there was no risk of the PFOA leeching into nearby Lake Paran.

"That certainly doesn't stop people from being concerned," said Patterson, who suggested that the village's lawyer look into writing up a draft contract before any final decisions are made. "What they're saying is that they've got several thousand yards of material, potentially, that we need to put somewhere, and we'd like to put it on your town property."

Boudreau said he had initial conversations about guaranteeing the condition of the fields. "When (they)'re done, we want to be able to mow it and play a game on it," he said. "We want the field to be in the condition its in now, but flat."

Welling Field features a baseball and soccer fields and is located on an access road off of North Street.

The full conversation was recorded by Catamount Access Television, and is available on the station's channels and YouTube page.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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