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Vermont Reaches Settlement With Saint-Gobain In Bennington

Lucas Willard
The former Chemfab plant in North Bennington

Vermont leaders have announced a settlement with Saint-Gobain related to contaminated water supplies in the Bennington area.  As part of the settlement, the company will pay to bring clean, municipal water lines to homes with wells contaminated with the chemical PFOA.

On Tuesday, Vermont Governor Phil Scott, Attorney General T.J. Donovan, and state legislators from Bennington announced a settlement with Saint-Gobain to bring clean water to homes and businesses.

Saint-Gobain has agreed to extend PFOA-free municipal water lines to about 200 homes in Bennington and North Bennington.

The odorless, tasteless chemical that poses health risks has been linked to the former Chemfab plant in North Bennington, now owned by Saint-Gobain.

In a prepared statement, Governor Scott said of the plan to provide clean drinking water, “the entire State team stands together to continue working until long-term drinking water solutions are in place for the entire impacted area, but today is a critical step.”

Scott also praised the company for continuing its work with the state as negotiations continue.

In June, Scott held a bill-signing ceremony for a piece of legislation requiring any polluter found to have distributed PFOA through air, land, or water to be liable for finding a clean water source.

Scott told WAMC at the time that the bill would be helpful during negotiations with Saint-Gobain. 

“I think it looks good and have that piece of legislation gives us a tremendous amount of leverage in terms of settlement.”

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics CEO Tom Kinisky said in a prepared statement that "Providing potable drinking water to citizens of Bennington and North Bennington has always been our shared goal."

He went on to mention the point-of-entry treatment systems already installed in many homes and businesses, saying the work shows the company’s “commitment to achieving this outcome."

Construction on the $20 million project is predicted to begin later this year. Earlier, Saint-Gobain agreed to fund an engineering study on the municipal line extensions.

The settlement does not require Saint-Gobain to extend water lines to the area roughly east of the train tracks along Route 7A in Bennington.

Both parties have agreed to seek additional information through an expedited investigation into the PFOA contamination in that area.

At a community meeting in April, Deputy Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Peter Walke told Bennington-area residents that the state and company were at odds over the source of the PFOA contamination in the eastern area.

“We have information that we’re confident in that we believe that the air deposition from their plants, from the former Chemfab plant, is the cause of PFOA contamination, but it’s important to know that there is a difference. And we’re not able to reach an agreement with a company that cannot agree on those basic premises,” said Walke.

Following further investigation, the state intends to seek funding from the responsible party to bring clean water to residents in the eastern portion of the impacted area.

Rob McDougall is  Environmental Protection Division Chief for the Vermont Attorney General’s Office..

“If we don’t agree, then the state’s committed to fighting to bring clean water to Bennington and North Bennington,” said McDougall.

Staff from the Agency of Natural Resources and Attorney General’s Office will be available at a public meeting at Tishman Lecture Hall on the Bennington College Campus tonight at 7.

Staff will also be available Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Vermont Department of Health Offices at 324 Main Street in Bennington.

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