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

Scott To Pick Up PFOA Settlement Efforts Where Shumlin Leaves Off

Governor-elect Phil Scott says he'll continue the work of the outgoing Shumlin administration to reach a settlement with the company that contaminated drinking water in Bennington County.Around 270 private wells in Bennington are contaminated with the chemical PFOA, which has been linked to liver and kidney diseases, high cholesterol, immune system problems and testicular, prostrate, thyroid and kidney cancers.

Scott wrote a letter last week with Gov. Peter Shumlin that was sent to Tom Kinisky, the president and CEO of Saint-Gobain.

In the joint letter, the outgoing and incoming governors say the company is responsible for contaminating the drinking water.

"We are united in our resolve to get permanent clean water to our constituents in Bennington County, with costs being covered by those who have polluted the water," Scott and Shumlin wrote to Kinisky. "We look forward to continuing to work with Saint-Gobain to clean up PFOA contamination in Bennington County."

The Agency of Natural Resources first detected PFOA in the Benninngton wells in February, and Saint-Gobain paid for drinking water, water and blood testing, as well as the point-of-entry systems that have been installed in homes around southwestern Vermont.

Explore more of VPR's PFOA coverage.

"There will be no change in approach given the transition in leadership at the state," said Julie Moore, Scott's pick to lead ANR. "We are committed to working with Saint-Gobain to supply safe drinking water to the residents in Bennington County that have been affected and design a meaningful cleanup plan."

But the state wants a more permanent solution which includes extending the municipal water supplies from the town of Bennington and from the village of North Bennington.

That work is expected to cost around $30 million, and Saint-Gobain has not yet agreed to cover the costs.
Vermont is paying for the engineering studies that are underway because the state hopes to begin work in the spring.

"The Bennington County residents have shown incredible patience and perseverance in the face of this crisis," Scott and Shumlin wrote. "At this critical juncture, the state of Vermont expects Saint-Gobain will honor its commitment to work together with the state to reach an agreement that will facilitate the start of construction of municipal water lines in Bennington County in 2017."

In the letter, which is signed by both Shumlin and Scott, the governor-elect makes clear that his administration expect talks with the company to continue until a settlement is reached.

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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