Article courtesy of Patrick McArdle | May 12, 2016 | Rutland Herald | Shared as educational material
NORTH BENNINGTON – Testing of private wells in the area near a former manufacturing site has identified almost 30 other wells showing some level of contamination for PFOA, according to Gov. Peter Shumlin.
The first test results showing some contamination from PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, were released on Feb. 25. Since then, the state has been gathering samples from other private wells in the area.
In a press release, Shumlin’s office said the results from 34 of those samples were returned on Friday and showed 29 wells had PFOA levels from 38 to 2,270 parts per trillion.
Different states allow different levels of PFOA, a once commonly used chemical, but Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation has set the acceptable level at 20 parts per trillion.
Most of the results returned on Friday were in the three digits but three wells on Royal Street showed results of 2,270, 1,150 and 647 parts per trillion.
PFOA contamination has not been found in the public water in the village of North Bennington or the town of Bennington.
Studies have linked high levels of PFOA with liver and testicular cancer, high blood pressure and low birth weights, among other health issues.
The state began testing for PFOA in February after the neighboring village of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., found high levels in their municipal water last year.
After finding elevated levels in three private wells, one on Asa Way as high as 2,000 parts per trillion, staff with the DEC began to expand their testing to a 1.5 mile area around the former ChemFab manufacturing plant, which closed in 2002.
The Asa Way well was tested again and showed a result of 2,330 parts per trillion on Friday.
On Saturday, Alyssa Schuren, commissioner of the Vermont DEC, said there was some expectation that the initial results would show contamination. The initial samples taken were closest to the former ChemFab site so there was an expectation that contamination was more likely there.
The state has collected about 185 samples. Results of the tests take about two weeks but once they’re in, they should help determine the extent of the contamination.
Schuren said staff from the DEC personally notified the families at the 29 new sites on Saturday. The residents there will also be getting follow-up phone calls from staff at the Vermont Department of Health.
A public meeting has also been scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Village School of North Bennington.
The health department has advised those living within a mile and a half of the former ChemFab site who are using private wells not to drink the water or use it for brushing their teeth, cooking or watering their pets.
Saint-Gobain, the owners of the former ChemFab business, who also operate a plant in Hoosick Falls, have agreed to pay for bottled water, the water tests and filtration systems at the homes where high levels of PFOA have been identified.
Schuren said those filtration systems could be installed as early as this week but state officials are hoping to connect everyone in the village of North Bennington to municipal water as a long term solution.
Saint-Gobain has also been asked to pay for the extension of the village’s municipal water system.
The bottled water paid for by the company is available at the North Bennington Village Variety Store and water tanks, from which residents can draw water, have been placed at intersection of Water Street and Route 67A.
The state has also begun the process of delivering bottled water to the affected residents.
In the week after PFOA was first found in North Bennington, an information center was set up for a few days at 324 Main St. in Bennington in the building used by the Vermont Department of Health and the Community College of Vermont.
That office was reopened on Saturday and will be open today from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Staff from the health department and DEC will be at the office to answer questions.