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Vermont Sets A Permanent Drinking Water Standard For PFOA

Howard Weiss-Tisman
VPR file
Vermont's safe water drinking standard for PFOA was set at 20 parts per trillion as an emergency rule until Thursday, when a legislative committee adopted it on a permanent basis.

A legislative committee has permanently set Vermont's safe drinking water standard for the chemicals PFOA and PFOS at 20 parts per trillion.

Vermont's limit is far below the EPA's limit of 70 parts per trillion, and it is now one of the lowest drinking water standards in the country.

PFOA is a dangerous chemical that's been linked to thyroid disease, cancer, high cholesterol and endocrine issues, and it's been detected in drinking water in Bennington County.

It was used to make Teflon and other water-resistant materials.

When PFOA was found in the water in southwestern Vermontin February, very few people in the state had even heard of the chemical.

The state, at the time, set its safe drinking water standard at 20 parts per trillion under an emergency rule.

On Thursday, after months of hearings and a public comment period, the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules permanently set the safety standard at 20 parts per trillion.

"I think this gives the people in Bennington County who are dealing with concerns related to PFOA a level of comfort," said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alyssa Schuren. "The rule is now set in stone, and there isn't a question about it any longer."

The contamination in Bennington has been linked to the former Chemfab plant, which was owned by Saint-Gobain before it moved in 2001.

In April, Saint-Gobain brought three law suits against the state challenging its low drinking water standard.

"While Vermont can set a PFOA limit, it is important that the State appropriately evaluates and properly applies the factors that go into setting any such regulatory standard," Saint Gobain spokeswoman Dina Silver Pokedoff said in a prepared statement. "That is why Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics filed in September an appeal of Vermont’s emergency rule issued in August that sets the limit for PFOA at 20 ppt."

Two of the lawsuits have already been dismissed. 

The other suit challenges the emergency rule and DEC attorney Matt Chapman says the state will look to dismiss those suits now that the standard has been adopted.

He said Saint-Gobain can now challenge the permanent rule if they choose to.

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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