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State Officials Detail Bennington PFOA Settlement

Lucas Willard
A map of the affected Bennington region. The area shaded in blue is where Vermont and Saint-Gobain have agreed to extend municipal water lines. The area in yellow is still being investigated.

Announced Tuesday and filed in state court on Wednesday, Vermont has reached a settlement agreement with company Saint-Gobain to address PFOA contamination in the Bennington area. The agreement will extend clean water lines to approximately 200 homes in the region. Officials were in Bennington to provide details Wednesday night.
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan appeared at Bennington College to tell local residents with contaminated wells that clean water is a human right.
“And what we do in Vermont is we take care of our neighbors and we stand up for human rights and we stand up for the peopleof this state’s rights, and we’re not going to quit until we get it done for you. Thanks for coming out tonight,” said Donovan.
The state’s $20 million settlement with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics will bring municipal water to about 200 homes with wells contaminated with PFOA. The odorless, tasteless chemical has been linked to ill-health effects including cancer.
Vermont has a 20 parts per trillion threshold for PFOA in drinking water,currently the most restrictive standard in the country.
State Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Peter Walke explained that Saint-Gobain has agreed to the threshold, dropping a previous challenge.
“That means that every single person, regardless of whether it happens now or whether it happens in the next stages of the process, that is the cleanup standard,” said Walke.
With bidding to bring water new water lines set to start in August, the state hopes to begin construction in September.
But the work will only cover one half of the affected region. The state and company have not come to agreement on the source of the contamination in the eastern half of the Bennington area. Both parties have agreed to undertake an expedited investigation of the contamination.
In a statement released Tuesday, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics CEO Tom Kinisky said, “Providing potable drinking water to citizens of Bennington and North Bennington has always been our shared goal.”
He added “The point-of-entry treatment systems that we have already voluntarily installed, and our funding of the planned water line extensions, show our commitment to achieving this outcome.”
All homes in the identified correction area are eligible to be connected to a municipal water line, though the state said it may not be feasible for all in the Bennington area.
Saint-Gobain will be required to install a replacement well, if feasible, or maintain and operate a point-of-entry system.
Across the border in Rensselaer County, New York, PFOA contamination has affected homes and businesses in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh.
The state recently declared two Superfund sites in Hoosick Falls, in addition to the Saint-Gobain facility on McCaffrey Street.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said negotiations in Hoosick Falls between the state and companies Saint-Gobain and Honeywell are continuing.
 “The work that they’re doing under the consent order that we’re overseeing is still very much active, and I certainly expect a day soon when the companies will reimburse the state for the work we’ve already done and take on additional measures,” said Seggos.
Seggos added that if the companies refuse to take on additional measures, such as finding a feasible alternate water supply, then the state will go after them.
DEC recently submitted a report to Honeywell and Saint-Gobain detailing possible locations for an alternate water source.
“So whether it’s not groundwater or surface water, the Tomhannaok reservoir, we’re asking them to explain to us how those supplies would be tapped into,” said Seggos. 
A public comment period on the Vermont consent order is open until August 25th.
More information can be found here: https://anrweb.vt.gov/DEC/_DEC/PFOADocs.aspx

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