NORTH BENNINGTON >> Environmental officials plan on going door to door in the next several days to test some local homeowners' wells for a potentially harmful chemical.
In addition, private well owners living within 1.5 miles of the former ChemFab plant on Water Street should not drink from their well and will be given bottled water for drinking and cooking, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Until the state tests the wells, residents can pick up bottled water at the Village Variety Store located at 9 Route 67, North Bennington. Residents can also draw water from two water tanks, which are located on the corner of Scary Lane and Route 67 and McCaters Park at the Henry Bridge.
Both the village's and town's public water systems tested negative for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a man-made chemical formerly used to make Teflon.
But private well owners within 1.5 miles of the former manufacturing facility can still be affected, regardless of whether they live in the village of North Bennington or the town of Bennington. For that reason, anyone within the 1.5 mile radius with a private well is being told to have their well tested.
"Contamination doesn't pay attention to town borders," DEC Commissioner Alyssa Schurer said at a packed public forum at the North Bennington firehouse Friday.
Schurer, joined by environmental and health officials, advised residents to use only bottled water for drinking, cooking and brushing teeth. They were also told to limit exposure by taking shorter showers and opening the bathroom window or using an exhaust fan, although PFOA is not believed to be easily absorbed through skin.
Health officials said they are looking to arrange blood tests for PFOA for people who have contaminated wells. But Schurer and others have said the number one priority is to stop people's exposure to PFOA and to have them contact their health provider.
"If your well is contaminated, do not use the water for drinking, preparing food, cooking, or brushing teeth," Health Commissioner Harry Chen said Monday in prepared remarks. "We recommend that you talk with your health care provider to consider having the routine blood tests for health conditions that may be treatable now."
The DEC took water samples after a concerned citizen advised them about possible contamination at ChemFab, which began making Teflon products at 1030 Water St. in 1970. Samples showed PFOA in three residential wells, one serving Pembroke Landscaping's well and one at the wastewater treatment facility.
The state hasn't confirmed whether or not ChemFab, which shut down in 2002, is the source. And state officials are not sure how far the contamination has spread or how many people are affected. They plan to test the Walloomsac River and surrounding area.
The EPA started telling Hoosick Falls, N.Y., residents to not drink or cook with public tap water after PFOA was found. Part of the village is now a Superfund site. The state launched health studies and began testing private wells.
For more information about the health effects of PFOA, call the state Department of Health at 800-439-8550, or visit the DOH website: healthvermont.gov/enviro/pfoa.aspx.
If you live within the area of concern and need your private well tested, call the director of the Waste Management and Prevention Division of the Department of Environmental Conservation at 802-828-1138, or email email@example.com.
For an interactive map of the 1.5 mile radius around ChemFab, visit: http://bit.ly/1QQBPBn.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979