Read the full article by Jim Therrien
“BENNINGTON — For a playwright drawn to Vermont themes, Eric Peterson saw the discovery of PFOA contamination of wells in Bennington as both a vicious shock to his community and a major inspiration.
The producing artistic director of Oldcastle Theatre Company, Peterson has written about Vermont’s first-in-the-nation civil unions law; Benningtonians who served in World War II, Robert Frost, and Ethan Allen.
Today, he is several drafts deep into ‘Water, Water Everywhere,’ about a town that resembles Bennington, a local factory and provider of ‘good-paying jobs,’ and the officials and business leaders who for years have played down the looming environmental and health crisis.
‘I think this is such an important story to where we live — Bennington, Hoosick Falls [N.Y.], North Bennington — and it struck me that water is so bloody essential,’ Peterson said. ‘If government can’t provide clean water, then we’re in a whole lot of trouble. And this has echoes all across the country.’
Decisions that are made or not made, allowing polluters to continue operating because they provide jobs, are still being made all over the country, Peterson said, ‘and it is frightening.’
The residents of Bennington and other towns thus victimized come to feel powerless, he said.
‘They didn’t know this was happening,’ he said. ‘By the time it was discovered it was too late, and then their lives are just overtaken by this catastrophe. And they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn’t anything they did.’
What also fascinated him, Peterson said, was that, ‘I don’t think the company wanted to hurt people; I don’t think the administration in Montpelier wanted to hurt people. But I think there is always this understandable tension between jobs and the environment.’
With that in mind, he said, ‘One of the things I tried to do is write a play where something terrible happens and there really isn’t a single bad guy to point to. The guys involved in this didn’t set out to hurt people; in fact the motives of one in particular were very good, but in the play they made some really wrong decisions.’
In the real Bennington, Vermont, PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) that state officials believe primarily spewed from the exhaust stacks of former ChemFab Corp. factories built up over decades in the soil and groundwater across a swath of the town.”