Town Manager’s Column: All About Town (March 2016)


Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

March Town Meeting is behind us. I am pleased to report that all budgets passed, the Town’s budget by a 3 to 1 margin. Thank you to all voters for your continuing support. I would like to welcome newly elected Select Board members Jeanne Conner and Jeannie Jenkins. They will officially take office on April 1, 2016. Incumbent, and current Board Chair, Tom Jacobs won re-election to the Board.

Let’s discuss the PFOA contamination issue and the steps underway to identify the problem and find long-term solutions. PFOA is short for perfluorooctanoic acid, a synthetic compound. In early March, three private residential drinking water wells and two commercial wells, not used for drinking, tested positive for PFOA. The North Bennington and Bennington municipal water supplies are PFOA free. An investigation into the source of contamination is on-going. On possible source being investigated is the former Chenfab plant in North Bennington. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics acquired the plant in 2000 and closed the facility in 2002. During that time, materials used contained PFOA. Due to this, Saint-Gobain is funding the cost to test wells within a 1.5 mile radius of the former plant and provide bottled water to those affected as well as point-of-use filtration systems for those wells known to be contaminated.

PFOA exists in the blood of humans and animals worldwide. The current science tells us that background levels in the blood range from 2 to 5 parts per billion. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Vermont Department of Health (DOH) have analyzed the incidence of two types of cancer associated with PFOA, kidney and testicular cancer. They have determined that kidney cancers in our area are no higher in number than the rest of the State. Testicular cancer numbers are too few to provide guidance.

Saint-Gobain has hired an engineering firm, C.T. Male out of Latham NY, to study the North Bennington water system to determine its capacity and its capability to accept additional connections. We have even discussed extending the Bennington system, and although possible, the focus currently is on the North Bennington system. A blood monitoring program is being developed by the Vermont Department of Health. The program has yet to be formalized so who gets tested has yet to be determined. Soil samples are being taken in areas near the former plant as well as some other points identified by DEC as important. As an extra precaution, the Town of Bennington has asked that the monitoring wells at the former landfill on Houghton Lane be tested. Some of the well test results taken last week may be available within a week. Once the area of contamination is identified, a formal long-term solution can be developed and implemented. If you have questions, call 802-828-1038.

Beyond this, the State will continue to investigate PFOA, to get a better handle on its properties and characteristics. It will attempt to identify all potentially responsible parties to determine financial responsibility. The parties are moving at an aggressive rate to finish the work and return those impacted to a life with safe drinking water and confidence in a healthy future.

Finally, there has been some concern about the Bennington water system and the impact of private lead service lines on the water we drink. For the last 25 years, Bennington has treated its water with chemicals that coat the pipes’ interior preventing lead from leaching into the water. Tests indicate that our water meets both Federal and State Drinking Water Standards. It is safe to drink. Enjoy!

Remember, if anyone has any questions or suggestions arising from this column or on any town matters, please contact me at 442-1037 or stop in at the Town Offices on South Street.

Stuart Hurd is Bennington’s Town Manager. He writes a monthly column on town issues.