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Bennington Homes Contaminated With PFOA Connect To Clean Municipal System

Howard Weiss-Tisman
Gov. Phil Scott, left, talks with Kevin Ture of Schultz Construction, the company that's working on the waterline extension in Bennington.

The first municipal waterline extensions to homes contaminated with the chemical PFOA have been installed. State officials were in Bennington Monday marking the important milestone.It's been a little over a year-and-a-half since the industrial chemical PFOA was first detected in a group of homes in Bennington.

And from the very early days of the crisis state officials said they wanted to extend municipal waterlines to the properties where the chemical was detected.

This summer, the Scott Administration announced that Saint-Gobain, the company that owned the factory where the chemical was used, would pay about $20 million to cover the costs associated with extending waterlines into a portion of the contaminated area.

Construction started in October, and Gov. Phil Scott said the state was committed to getting pipes in the ground as soon as possible.

"Typically, something of this magnitude would take upwards to at least five years, by the time you do the scoping, the planning, the designing and the bidding and the construction," Scott said. "We've been able to accomplish this with the efforts of a lot of people, to do this in less than two years."

Construction crews have been able to install about 30 percent of the pipe in this section of town, and 17 homes will be hooked up before crews have to stop working for winter.

David Laplante was the first one to be hooked up to the municipal water system. In addition to the governor, Laplante was joined by a group of Bennington legislators and state officials at his house.

"I actually thought if they did anything they might break ground somewhere and in the springtime," Laplante said. "So I'm very surprised that here we are before the end of the New Year with clean drinking water from the town. Which is great."

Saint-Gobain owned the Chemfab plant in North Bennington where PFOA was used to manufacture a waterproof fabric.

The state says emissions from the plant dropped PFOA across Bennington, and even though the plant closed in 2002, the chemical has remained in the soil and water.

PFOA has been linked to a number of adverse health effects, including low birth weights, high cholesterol, thyroid disease and cancer.

The settlement that was reached this summer only covers about half of the area that has been exposed to PFOA.

Saint-Gobain is doing a study of the other section of town because the company is disputing that fact that it was responsible for all of the contamination there.

Attorney General TJ Donovan says he expects negotiations to resume once the company is done doing its own environmental tests there.

"You know at the end of the day this is about bringing clean drinking water to the residents of Bennington County," said Donovan. "They don't want to hear about lawyers fighting. This is about getting the job done. This is about protecting Vermonters. This is about protecting the state of Vermont's interests, and protecting our environment."

Donovan says he hopes to resume negotiations with Saint-Gobain over the remaining section of Bennington early next year.


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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