BENNINGTON - Today, Governor Scott, Attorney General Donovan, Legislators representing Bennington and North Bennington, and community leaders connected the first home affected by perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) contamination to the newly constructed waterline extension. This marks a significant milestone in Vermont’s response to the contamination that impacted hundreds of homes across the two communities. Construction will continue in North Bennington and the western portion of Bennington through the next year while the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) oversees an expedited investigation in eastern Bennington.
“Today marks significant progress, and I’m proud that the state and communities have come together to reach this important day,” said Governor Phil 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 have been found to contain PFOA above the Vermont Groundwater Standard of 20 parts per trillion. In response to the contamination from the former Chemfab plant in North Bennington, legislators, state officials, community leaders, and construction contractors have worked together to bring safe, reliable drinking water back to Bennington and North Bennington as quickly as possible.
“I want to thank the Bennington delegation for their partnership and their advocacy on behalf of their constituents,” said Attorney General 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 October 2, 2017, the settlement agreement between the State and Saint-Gobain became effective, which obligated Saint-Gobain to pay for the extension of municipal waterlines to affected homes and businesses in North Bennington and the western side of Bennington. Construction on the waterlines began in mid-October. Approximately 30 percent of the water mains in the project area have been installed. Before the construction pauses for the Winter, 17 additional homes will be connected to municipal water. This portion of the waterline extension project includes approximately 14 miles of new water mains, will connect approximately 220 homes and businesses, and will be completed in less than a year.
“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 to make sure the eastern Bennington residents get connected to municipal drinking water.”
ANR will also hold a community meeting in January to provide residents with a status report on the progress of construction work and the ongoing investigation for the eastern portion of the impacted area in Bennington. The evidence ANR has collected to date indicates that Saint-Gobain is responsible for all PFOA contamination in the two communities. Saint-Gobain will provide the state with additional investigative data by the end of the week, which will be used to develop an understanding of the contamination and its source or sources. If Saint-Gobain is found responsible, ANR will require Saint-Gobain to pay for the same long-term drinking water solution in the eastern portion as well.
To address and prevent future releases of emerging contaminants, Governor Scott formed the Interagency Committee on Chemical Management (ICCM) via Executive Order 13-17. The ICCM will work with a citizen advisory panel to develop recommendations to improve Vermont’s management of chemicals and protect Vermonters.