Governor Phil Scott was in Bennington Monday, alongside Attorney General TJ Donovan, legislators representing the town and North Bennington, and community leaders to connect the first home affected by perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) contamination to the new waterline extension.
Construction will continue in North Bennington and the western part of Bennington through next year, while the Agency of Natural Resources oversees an expedited investigation in eastern Bennington, according to a release from the VT Agency of Natural Resources.
“Today marks significant progress, and I’m proud that the state and communities have come together to reach this important day,” said Gov. Scott. “That said, we will not stop until all impacted residents have safe, clean drinking water.”
In early February 2016, PFOA was discovered in wells across Bennington and North Bennington. The chemical has been tied to numerous health problems including low birth weight, thyroid disease, and kidney cancer.
Over 300 water supplies were found to have PFOA above the Vermont Groundwater Standard of 20 parts per trillion.
In response to the contamination from the former Chemfab plant, legislators, state officials, community leaders and construction contractors have worked to bring safe, reliable drinking water back to Bennington and North Bennington as quickly as possible, according to a release from the VT Agency of Natural Resources.
“I want to thank the Bennington delegation for their partnership and their advocacy on behalf of their constituents,” said AG TJ Donovan. “I also want to thank the residents of Bennington County for their patience, and I want them to know we are going to keep working for them until the job is done. This is a significant step in the right direction for the Bennington community, but there is more work to do.”
On Oct. 2, the settlement agreement between the state and Saint-Gobain became effective, which required Saint-Gobain to pay for the extension of municipal waterlines to affected homes and businesses. Construction began in mid-October.
According to the VT Agency of Natural Resources, around 30% of the water mains have been installed, before construction stops for the winter, 17 more homes will be connected. The goal is to connect around 220 homes and businesses in less than a year, this includes around 14 miles of new water mains.
“It has been a long journey to get to where we are today, celebrating this home being connected to municipal water,” said Senator Dick Sears on behalf of the legislative delegation. “I am incredibly encouraged by the progress we’ve made and I’m more committed than ever before to make sure the eastern Bennington residents get connected to municipal drinking water.”
The VT ANR will hold a community meeting in January to give a report on the progress of construction and the ongoing investigation. ANR said the evidence collected so far indicates Saint-Gobain is responsible for all PFOA contamination in the two communities. The company will give the state with more information by the end of the week, which will be used to get an understanding of the contamination and its source(s).
If Saint-Gobain is found responsible, the Agency will require the company to pay for the same long-term drinking water solution in the eastern part of town.