Residents still looking for answers on PFOA problems, solutions


BENNINGTON >> Residents have more questions about two proposals to connect homes and businesses impacted by PFOA contamination with municipal water systems.

Among them: Will they be required to hook into the new water main in front of their home, and how much would the project cost compared to long-term maintenance of home filtration systems?

More than 100 people turned out for a meeting at Bennington College on Wednesday night on the PFOA water issue, the state's response and two proposals to extend municipal water lines from the town and village. State and local officials did their best to answer the questions, often talking to residents one-on-one. But local and state officials did say that residents shouldn't have to pay.

Alyssa Schuren, commissioner for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said residents' questions are part of the decision-making process. State officials are negotiating with Saint-Gobain, the party potentially responsible for PFOA contamination, about paying for water line extensions, a project now estimated at $32 million. So far, the French multinational company hasn't said no, Schuren said. But she cautioned the state needs more information to nail down a project cost.

"Until we get a price, it's very hard to get a commitment," Schuren said.

Schuren categorized the contamination issue as "evolving" and noted PFOA has turned up in additional wells.

"And we don't want to leave anyone behind," she said.

So far, the company has agreed to pay for well testing, installation of point-of-entry filtration systems on homes and businesses, and bottled water for impacted residents. The municipal water lines and future costs are part of ongoing negotiations, Schuren said.

About 201 point of entry (POET) filtration systems have been installed on homes and businesses, according to DEC. About 460 samples have been collected from private wells, according to DEC. Of those, 243 tested above 20 parts per trillion (ppt), which is the state's interim limit for drinking water.

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, is a man-made chemical once used as a key processing agent during the manufacturing of Teflon. Contamination is believed to have come from the former ChemFab/Saint-Gobain site on Water Street in the village of North Bennington.

The state brought on subcontractor Weston & Sampson to take well samples. Saint-Gobain is working with C.T. Male and Culligan Water Technologies, which has been installing the POET filters.

Tests show the filters are removing PFOA "below the level of analysis," according to Richard Spiese, hazardous site manager with DEC. Some wells had levels as high as 2,000 ppt.

"Saint-Gobain for a variety of legal reasons and technical reasons has used a lab with a detection limit of 20 ppt. That is our standard. So far, we've accepted that," he said. "We're certainly looking to the community to find out if there are other things we should consider. But what that means is there is no PFOA coming into your home above the drinking water standard."

A Saint-Gobain subcontractor will test each POET three times, review water usage and submit a plan for how often to test later. DEC will review that plan and respond to it, Spiese said.

Spiese said the state will visit homes with POETs to conduct "geophysical analysis, to better understand in the third dimension what's going on below ground." He said there may be wells that could be replaced without extending municipal water.

Other state actions have included blood tests for PFOA. Tracy Dolan, deputy commissioner for the Department of Health, said those results should be released in September. Another round of clinics will be held in November.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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