“ALBANY – The scope of PFOA ground contamination from three manufacturing plants in Rensselaer County and southern Vermont is more ‘extensive’ than initially anticipated, according to a new study.
Elevated levels of perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical used to make heat-resistant, non-stick products, were found in soil samples stretching more than 10 miles east of the ChemFab facility in North Bennington, Vermont by a team of faculty and students at Bennington College.
The elevated levels were repeatedly discovered in a 120 square mile area east of the North Bennington facility, while a consent order with Vermont only identified about 12 square miles of contaminated land and the plant owner, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, has maintained that emissions of PFOA were limited to the surrounding neighborhoods only.
The study, which tried to gauge the breadth of the contamination, highlights the discovery of elevated PFOA levels in soil downwind of the Saint-Gobain plants, including its Hoosick Falls location, but they didn’t find the same levels of contamination in northern areas that are outside of dominant wind patterns.
‘The pattern in soil seem fairly clear,’ said David Bond, a contributor to the study and professor at Bennington College. ‘They all point back to the Saint-Gobain plants in North Bennington and Hoosick Falls.’
‘Our research suggests Saint-Gobain has been insisting on a microscopic view of a wide angle problem. When you zoom out, you begin to see just how extensive PFOA contamination may actually be,’ he added.
In response to questions about airborne disbursement of PFOA, Saint-Gobain said in a statement that their focus is limited to the Bennington and North Bennington areas and highlighted their work in these communities to address the presence of PFOA…
While PFOA levels in the new soil samples are below the health guidance levels set by Vermont, researchers with Bennington College are worried about it leaking out and contaminating ground water. PFOA exposure has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, as well as thyroid diseases and other serious health problems.
The study was based on PFOA levels in the top 14 inches of soil, which were collected by the Bennington College professors and students. This latest effort is part of a PFOA contamination review in New York and Vermont since 2016 that was funded by the National Science Foundation.
In the coming months, the researchers anticipate they will expand their search area, including south and west of the Saint-Gobain plants…
At the Hoosick Falls site, in conjunction with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the DEC is conducting air emission sampling at the Hoosick Falls plant to assess the potential for air emissions containing PFOA and similar chemicals.
Several people who worked at the plant in Hoosick Falls previously told the Times Union about seeing powder-like smoke plumes that often settled in the valley around the plant.
In the 1980s, the plant installed ‘scrubbers’ in its smokestacks to prevent toxic pollutants from entering the air. Kevin Allard, a former Hoosick Falls village board member who worked at the plant, told the Times Union in 2015 that the scrubbers probably didn’t prevent all the toxic pollutants from escaping.
‘Before the scrubbers were put on there was a good 15 years of running full-out and all that material going up into the air, up out of the stacks and just floating down,’ Allard said. ‘It was heavier than air’…
The DEC announced an environmental study in June at the facility in Petersburgh to determine the extent of pollution and how to address it. The results of the study, which is being paid for by Taconic’c corporate owner, is expected to be done by next year.”
Read the full article by David Lombardo