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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Erin Brockovich Expands Water Contamination Investigation To North Bennington

Howard Weiss-Tisman
The Chemfab plant in North Bennington. Erin Brockovich helped file a lawsuit in Hoosick Falls, N.Y. against Saint-Gobain, the same company that owned the North Bennington plant before it closed in 2002.

Consumer advocate Erin Brockovich and the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg announced Friday they are expanding their investigation into well water contamination to include North Bennington.

The State of Vermont announced last week that five wells near the former Chemfab plant in North Bennington tested positive for PFOA, a suspected carcinogen. This week, officials began going door-to-door to test private wells for contamination.

Saint-Gobain owned the plant up until 2002, when it closed, and the company is also suspected of contaminating wells in Hoosick Falls, New York, where similar PFOA contamination has been detected.

Brockovich and Weitz & Luxenberg recently filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. and Honeywell International Inc. on behalf of Hoosick Falls residents who have been drinking water contaminated by PFOA.

The case was filed after local residents reported falling ill after drinking and cooking with this water.

In addition, Ms. Brockovich and Weitz & Luxenberg recently announced an investigation into suspected causes and consequences of PFOA water contamination affecting Petersburgh, New York.

Several wells in the North Bennington contain the same chemical that was found in the Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh water systems.

”We are facing a water contamination crisis across our country,” said Brockovich in a release about the investigation. "North Bennington is the latest in a long line of communities who can no longer trust the most basic necessity of life. I hope this investigation will help residents understand more about the size and scale of the problem.”

Chronic PFOA exposure has been linked to testicular cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis and pregnancy-induced hypertension. Studies suggest other health consequences include a possible connection to pancreatic cancer.

”Drinking PFOA contaminated water can have a devastating impact on human health,” said Robin Greenwald, head of the Environmental and Consumer Protection Unit at Weitz & Luxenberg, in the release. "We are undertaking this independent investigation to understand why this has occurred and the ways in which residents have been harmed. We will be talking to residents about their legal options and to the authorities about how the ongoing contamination can be stopped.”

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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