Energy & Environment

Saint-Gobain will fund water line project design

Peter Walke

Peter Walke, deputy secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, speaks during a press conference on April 19, 2018. Photo by Colin Meyn/VTDigger


BENNINGTON — Water line design work in the eastern section of a PFOA contamination zone in Bennington will be funded by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, state environmental officials announced on Wednesday.

“We’re excited about this,” said Peter Walke, deputy secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources.

The recent agreement with Saint-Gobain, the responsible party for the perfluorooctanoic acid contamination, was seen as a significant development in ongoing negotiations.

A similar agreement was concluded last year for about 200 properties on the western side of the zone, which resulted in Saint-Gobain providing up to $20 million for municipal water line extensions to properties with polluted wells.

Walke said he is “cautiously optimistic we can come to an [overall] agreement,” as he believes the company “has shown a willingness to come to the table.”

The Legislature had approved up to $750,000 to fund the water line design if Saint-Gobain did not agree or was slow to fund line extensions.

State officials have said they will take the company to court if no overall agreement can be reached for providing clean water to the entire contamination area.

The eastern side of the PFOA contamination zone — a rectangular swath of town around two former ChemFab Corp. factories — is roughly east of Route 7A and also includes roughly 200 properties. As with the western side, the state is pushing for water line extensions to those properties to provide a permanent source of clean drinking water.

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However, the negotiations had stalled over the company’s contention that there were other sources of PFOA in that area besides the former ChemFab factories. An engineering report commissioned by Saint-Gobain agreed with the company’s contention, identifying as possible sources a former town landfill and “background” sources of the chemical that had traveled from other sites around the region.

State officials contend the PFOA that they believe emanated from ChemFab exhaust stacks “was an order of magnitude” higher than any other possible sources.

The soil and groundwater contamination is believed to have spread over a wide area from plant during a process involving drying Teflon liquid onto fiberglass fabrics at high temperatures. PFOA was used for decades in the manufacture of Teflon.

Both ChemFab plants here have been closed since Saint-Gobain moved the last local operation on Water Street to New Hampshire in 2002. Saint-Gobain acquired ChemFab Corp. in 2000.

Also on Wednesday, state officials and project contractors reported that the water lines in the western sector are essentially complete in both Bennington and North Bennington. The projects are expected to be completed with water line connections installed and on-site carbon filtering systems removed by Oct. 31.

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Jim Therrien

About Jim

Jim Therrien is reporting on Bennington County for VTDigger and the Bennington Banner. He was the managing editor of the Banner from 2006 to 2012. Therrien most recently served as a city hall reporter with The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Email: [email protected]

Follow Jim on Twitter @BB_therrien

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