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PFC’s Found In Chittenden County But No Drinking Water Concerns

PFOA formula

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin released the results of testing for perfluorinated compounds in groundwater at two of 11 testing sites in the state.  While both locations show the believed to be carcinogenic chemicals present in groundwater wells, there is also minimal concern that drinking water wells are being contaminated.
State officials released the results of groundwater testing at the former IBM plant in Essex Junction, now the site of GlobalFoundries, and the former Hercules Inc. plant in Colchester, now owned by Champlain Cable.   

At the former Hercules site, all 12 groundwater monitoring wells contained PFOA in concentrations ranging from 77 to 7,200 parts per trillion.  One groundwater monitoring well outside the property boundary had no detectable concentrations of PFOA. PFOS was not detected in any samples at the Hercules site.

At the IBM location, eight of 15 groundwater monitoring wells tested contained PFOA in concentrations ranging from 8 to 190 parts per trillion. The contamination was confined to the IBM property.

Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alyssa Schuren says they are trying to determine why there is such a wide variation in concentrations.   “It could be that you’re getting further and further away from the point of contamination. For example at the Hercules site we’re looking at a couple areas that were pits in the ground where chemicals may have been dumped. The further you get away from those pits, you know, the numbers you would see going down. So we’re working right now to define the scope of the environmental problem.”

Drinking water contamination is not a major concern near the two sites because most residences and businesses within a one-mile radius are served by municipal water supplies.  The possibility of contamination of any private wells within that radius, according to Commissioner Schuren, is very low.   “I say that we feel that it’s low because we saw in both cases, on both sites, that there were some areas where there wasn’t any contamination and so we’re in the process of just finding the plume underground. And it appears that it is at this point all on site. And we’re working to confirm that.”

Vermont State Toxicologist Sarah Vose echoes those thoughts, noting that the test sites in Chittenden County are diametrically different than what was encountered in Bennington.   “These are monitoring wells that are installed to specifically monitor for environmental contamination. These aren’t wells that are providing drinking water to anyone.  So there is a completely different response because if no one’s drinking this water here in Chittenden County then the potential to impact human health is nonexistent.”

The state has results for all but one of the 11 sites tested statewide and Schuren says there are no plans to expand the tests.   “We feel pretty confident we’ve covered the different industries that may have used these chemicals historically. That said if new information comes to light then we will certainly look into it further.  But we do feel as we have gone through this process our level of confidence that we have our arms around these issues in the state is growing.”

The governor’s office reports that two other sites where PFOA and PFOS were detected include an underground storage tank at the Pittsford Fire Academy, and a groundwater collection trench at the Air National Guard Base in South Burlington. No private drinking water wells were affected at either site.    

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