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

With High PFOA Contamination In North Bennington, State To Expand Testing Area

Howard Weiss-Tisman
Gov. Peter Shumlin points to a map showing the new areas the state will test for the contaminant PFOA. Shumlin spoke at a community meeting in North Bennington Wednesday night.

Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Wednesday that the state is going to extend the range of water testing as results continue to come in showing widespread contamination around the former Chemfab plant in North Bennington.

The state initially tested private water wells within 1.5 miles of the factory.

Shumlin said Wednesday that tests on the outer border of that 1.5-mile radius are showing levels of the suspected carcinogen PFOA well above the state limit.

"We were hoping that when we set the mile-and-a-half radius that that was going to give us better news than we got," Shumlin said. "So now we quickly have to go into crisis management mode to figure out where the radius does stop. So that's priority number one, is figure out who's got polluted water and how fast can we get them off it."

Shumlin spoke at the meeting at Bennington College to provide an update and answer questions from North Bennington residents whose wells have been tested.

The state has already tested about 185 wells, and about 70 percent of those tests are showing elevated levels of PFOA.

Shumlin said Saint-Gobain, the company that owned the Chemfab plant before it closed in 2002, has been working closely with the state.

Saint-Gobain is paying for the water tests and for the bottled water that is being provided to anyone whose tests are showing unsafe levels of PFOA.

Shumlin said the company is also paying for water filtration systems.

The state is beginning to investigate if it will be possible to connect those homes with positive PFOA water tests to connect to the municipal water system, which has been tested and is free of the contaminant.

Saint-Gobain has not yet committed to paying for the water system extension, but Shumlin said the company has been receptive to working with the state.

The Department of Environmental Conservation says it will test an additional 100 wells in three zones outside of the 1.5-mile radius.

The state is also considering testing areas outside North Bennington, including at two sites that use fire fighting foam, which may contain PFOA.

Department of Health Deputy Commissioner Tracy Dolan also said blood tests on the people who have PFOA in their water will not begin until April.

The has state set up an information center at the Department of Health office at 324 Main Street in Bennington.

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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