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State Says Saint-Gobain 'Completely Underestimated' Reach Of PFOA Contamination In Latest Report

Howard Weiss-Tisman
Saint-Gobain put out a draft report early this year that said it's impossible link them to some of the homes in the area affected by PFOA, and now the state is pressing them to reconsider. The company provided carbon water filters for the same area.

The Agency of Natural Resources is poking holes in a report that says Saint-Gobain was not responsible for some of the PFOA contamination in Bennington.

The state reached a $20 million settlement with Saint-Gobain last year over water contamination near the company's former Chemfab plant in North Bennington.

Hundreds of homes around Bennington are contaminated with the chemical PFOA, which has been linked to cancer, and a number of other adverse health effects.

The settlement is paying for municipal waterline extensions to a portion of the contaminated area, but there are another 300-or-so houses in the disputed area that have PFOA in their water supply.

Saint-Gobain put out a draft report early this year that said it's impossible to link the company to those contaminated wells.

Chuck Schwer is with the Department of Environmental Conservation, and he says Saint-Gobain's scientists missed the mark on a number of areas.

"We really don't agree with many of their conclusions," Schwer said Friday. "They have done a model, which predicts where PFOA would have been deposited through air emissions. And we think they've completely underestimated how much came out the stacks [at the facility] and how far it traveled."

Saint-Gobain's draft report on "Area 2," which lies generally east of the railroad tracks that run through town, came out in January.

The state issued its response to the report last week.

In its report, Saint-Gobain says the PFOA in the contaminated water cannot be directly linked to the company's use of the chemical.

The company says the measurements of the dangerous chemical are quote "consistent with background concentration."

But the state argues — just the opposite — and in the response they released last week, ANR scientists say the company's assessment is flawed, and that the report has no proof to support many if its claims.

Schwer says the company now has the option of using the state's input as it develops a final report.

"We feel that they are responsible for the contamination that has been found in Corrective Action Area 2 and that they should step up," said Schwer. "But certainly, if we can't reach an agreement, we will be going to court."

Saint-Gobain paid for carbon water filters inside Area 2, but there's currently no long-term plan for the company to maintain the filters or provide clean water to those homes.

Work started on the waterline extensions in Area 1 in the fall, and the state hopes to complete that work later this year.

Dina Silver Pokedoff, Director of Branding and Communication at Saint-Gobain Corporation released the following statement:

Saint-Gobain received initial comments from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources on our “Draft Interim Conceptual Site Model Site Investigation Report” and is expecting additional comments from the state next week. These comments are in regard to reports submitted by Saint-Gobain on December 15 and Feb. 15, respectively. Saint-Gobain is reviewing the state’s comments and will continue to work towards the submission of a final report, as outlined in our consent order.

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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