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EPA Wants To Better Coordinate Cleanup Of Chemicals Like PFOA

Howard Weiss-Tisman
VPR file
This photo shows a consultant collecting water in Bennington. The EPA announced this week that it wants to coordinate efforts going on across the country to deal with contamination problems.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it wants to better coordinate the nationwide response to soil and water contaminated with chemicals like PFOA.PFOA is an industrial chemical that has contaminated about 270 private wells in Bennington.
It is just one of the perfluorinated compounds that has been found in water and soil across the country.

Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation waste management director Chuck Schwer says the move by EPA could signal a shift in how the federal government is responding to the growing crisis.

"We have learned that this is a very pervasive problem, and it's in a lot of different locations," Schwer says. "I think this is what's really prompted EPA taking a more active role. They recognize just how serious a problem this is, not just in Vermont but around the country."

The EPA has phased out the use of perfluorinated compounds but it was used for decades in firefighter foam and to make Teflon and water-proof fabrics.

The chemicals have been linked to a number of health effects such as thyroid disease, high cholesterol, low birth weights and testicular cancer.

The EPA announced this week that it's launching a cross agency effort to include the air, land, water and chemical departments, in coordination with the regional offices around the country.

The federal agency says it will work more closely with local communities dealing with the contamination in order to to help develop new methods for measuring the chemicals.

The EPA says it will also enhance coordination among the states and "expand communication efforts" about the health effects.

In a fact sheet sent out to states this week, the EPA also says it will take a closer look at the chemical GenX, which was developed to replace the older perfluorinated compounds.


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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