“BENNINGTON — With state funding in place, Bennington is close to beginning design work to extend water lines to the remaining properties contaminated with PFOA.

The question remains, however, whether the firm considered the responsible party will agree to pick up a multi-million dollar tab for both design work and the water-line project itself.

An appropriation in the new state budget provides $750,000 for engineering design or related work to prepare for a project to provide clean water to more than 200 Bennington properties. Those are roughly east of Route 7A within a state-determined perfluorooctanoic acid contamination zone around two former ChemFab Corp. factories deemed the source of the pollution.

The funding was proposed by Bennington Sens. Dick Sears and Brian Campion and other local lawmakers to ensure the design could proceed this year, regardless of any settlement with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics. Officials hope that Saint-Gobain, which acquired ChemFab in 2000 and is considered the responsible party, will cover project costs — estimated in the range of $20 million.

The firm agreed last summer to provide that same amount to extend water lines to affected properties to the west of Route 7A, and negotiations now are in progress concerning the eastern sector…

If no settlement can be reached soon, Walke said a decision would be made on the necessity of taking the matter to court.

He added that the state would like to know whether Saint-Gobain is going to fund water-line project design — as it did in the western sector — before using the $750,000 allocated by the Legislature.

Concerning the eastern sector, the company contends there are other likely sources of PFOA, including a former town landfill off Houghton Lane and background sources, such as contamination that might have traveled through the atmosphere over distances, especially from other industrial sources around the region. That contention was included in a lengthy Barr Engineering report commissioned by Saint-Gobain, which DEC officials say contains faulty PFOA distribution or other engineering models or draws incorrect conclusions about PFOA in the Bennington area.

The state contends other work has shown that the overwhelming source was the former ChemFab factories, primarily spread through the air from factory exhaust stacks when the company coated fabrics with Teflon and dried it at high temperature.

Saint-Gobain closed the final plant on Water Street in North Bennington in 2002 and moved those operations to New Hampshire…

Also in the budget that became law last month is up to $200,000 to conduct blood-draw clinics during 2018 for current and former Bennington residents who were exposed to PFOA, primarily through drinking contaminated water.

While blood draws were conducted after the PFOA pollution was discovered in early 2016, those affected, their supporters and local lawmakers have advocated for long-term medical monitoring for current blood levels and for diseases associated with PFOA exposure. Those include high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

PFOA levels, which were found in many residents to be well above the national average for the common industrial chemical, decline slowly only over many years.”

Read the full article by Jim Therrien