Environment

Residents affected by PFOA vow to continue class action lawsuit

Attorneys for Bennington residents affected by PFOA contamination continued to press their clients’ interests Wednesday, declaring that the state’s agreement with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics to fund $20 million in water line extensions to about half the affected properties is only a first step.

“In particular, residents living east of the railroad tracks along Route 7A in Bennington will continue to lack a public water source,” the attorneys said in a news release.

“Moreover, the settlement does nothing to compensate the hundreds of local residents who have been damaged because their properties, wells and bodies have been contaminated with PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) from the former Saint-Gobain plants in Bennington and North Bennington,” the statement continued. “Even for those who eventually will get town water, the settlement does not compensate them for the fact that now, for the first time, they will have to pay for that water.”

Four law firms are representing affected households in a state-defined contamination zone around the former ChemFab plants, having sued in U.S. District Court in Rutland, seeking class-action status for hundreds of potential clients in the area.

In addition to the lawsuit, the state has been negotiating with Saint-Gobain to fund municipal water line extensions to all affected properties. The announcement this week covered a settlement for about half the properties, located west of Route 7A and a rail line, while talks are continuing for residents who live in the rest of the area contaminated by the chemical.

Residents are being briefed in Bennington this week on the settlement and plans for construction, and the agreement has been posted online.

Patrick Bernal, one of the lawyers representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit, wrote that “Hundreds of Bennington and North Bennington residents have had their properties contaminated with PFOA, have consumed water contaminated with PFOA and have elevated levels of PFOA in their blood, have lost the use of their wells, have lost property value, have incurred significant expenses and inconvenience, and will incur significant expense, such as paying for public water once the water lines are extended. In addition, the community has lost the use of its aquifer for decades, and possibly forever.”

Residents not covered by Saint-Gobain’s partial settlement will be forced to continue using filter systems supplied by the company, which lead to low water pressure, high costs of upkeep and maintenance, and concerns about contaminant breakthrough, the release said.

The plaintiffs in the suit support the partial settlement between Vermont and Saint-Gobain, according to the release, but the class action will continue “until Saint-Gobain provides all affected residents with a permanent source of safe water and fully compensates all affected residents for the damage it has caused.”


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Jim Therrien

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