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Saint-Gobain And State In Dispute Over Area Of PFOA Contamination

The company that's suspected of contaminating water with the chemical PFOA has agreed to pay for the next level of engineering study for a municipal water extension.

Gov. Phil Scott announced that Saint-Gobain has agreed to pay for the engineering plans that will lead to a final design of a waterline in Bennington. But the company is only agreeing to cover a portion of the contaminated area.

The  state says Saint-Gobain released the chemical into the environment from its now-closed Chemfab plant in North Bennington.

The two sides have been locked in negotiations over who should pay for a long term solution for the PFOA contamination that's affected about 270 homes.

And there is  still disagreement over just how much of Bennington the company is willing to consider when supporting remediation.

Saint-Gobain will pay about $800,000 for design plans for about 13 miles of waterline.

In a joint statement written with local legislators and Attorney General TJ Donovan, Scott said: "While this agreement does not cover design work for the entire area and additional investigation and negotiation remains to be done, we continue to believe that settlement represents the best and fastest path to a permanent drinking water solution for the residents of Bennington and North Bennington." 

The statement continued: "We also want to be clear that we will only continue to pursue and support a negotiated settlement if it remains in the best interest of the people of Bennington and North Bennington. We will continue to hold Saint-Gobain responsible because the ‘polluter pays’ model is critical to cleaning up contaminated sites across the state.”

At a meeting in Bennington Thursday, Agency of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Peter Walke said the company is disputing whether some of the contamination came from a different source.

The state thinks the contamination traveled through the air, and Walke said Saint-Gobain was not going to pay for the engineer plans for the entire contaminated area.

The company is arguing that some of the homes may have been polluted from a nearby landfill.

But he said the agreement does mean that the plans will get the state closer to delivering municipal water to the affected homes.

"Saint-Gobain signed an agreement  with the state to move the waterline construction project from  preliminary design to final design," Walke said. "That brings us up to essentially permits and shovels in the ground."

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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