Read the full article by Elizabeth Gribkoff (VTDigger)

“The wastewater treatment plants in Montpelier and Newport have ‘significantly higher’ PFAS concentrations in the discharge leaving their plants, according to a report out today from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. 

The two plants cited are the only ones that regularly accept landfill leachate for processing.

PFAS, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a family of widely used chemicals under scrutiny for their health impacts. Last year, lawmakers passed a law, Act 21, requiring the state Agency of Natural Resources to set drinking water standards for five PFAS compounds — PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFHpA and PFNA. The agency is moving ahead with setting those standards at a combined 20 parts per trillion.

The law also required ANR to come up with a plan for a statewide investigation into potential sources of PFAS contamination and to submit a report on managing landfill leachate, which is liquid contaminated with landfill pollutants. And the state had to submit a plan for regulating the chemicals in surface waters, which also came out Wednesday…

The state completed an initial round of PFAS sampling around Vermont after the discovery of PFOA contamination in Bennington in 2016. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has been slow to act to regulate PFAS, leaving states largely on their own to figure out how to deal with contamination…

The state hired engineering firm Weston and Sampson to study PFAS levels in landfill leachate and at wastewater treatment plants. In a report released Wednesday, the firm found that treated water leaving plants that regularly accept landfill leachate have the highest PFAS concentrations. 

Montpelier took the largest amount of leachate, 1.3 million gallons, from the Coventry and now-closed Moretown landfills during the sample period of September and October 2019, while Newport accepted just over 400,000 gallons. (Newport no longer accepts leachate as a condition of the Coventry landfill’s new Act 250 permit to expand.) The average concentration for the five PFAS compounds regulated by the state was 69 parts per trillion for treated water leaving the Montpelier plant, while treated water coming out of the Newport plant averaged 65 ppt. 

Meanwhile, plants that treat residential wastes on average had PFAS levels below the state’s 20 ppt drinking water standard, according to the DEC report. Treatment plants in Swanton and Bennington, which has widespread PFOA contamination, also had higher average PFAS levels. While state officials are still looking “back up the pipe” to see what is leading to elevated PFAS levels in the Swanton plant, there is a metal plating company that discharges to that plant, said Kasey Kathan, analyst for the DEC.  

Leachate from the shuttered Randolph landfill actually had higher PFAS levels than the still-open Coventry landfill. Kathan pointed to waste it had accepted from the teflon-coating factory in Bennington as a likely cause for that.

In October 2018, the state Agency of Natural Resources’ Department of Environmental Conservation approved a 10-year continuation of the Coventry landfill and an expansion to its south. A concern raised by expansion opponents was that landfill owner Casella Waste Systems was treating leachate — water contaminated with landfill pollutants — at Newport’s wastewater treatment plant on the Clyde River.  

One of the conditions of the DEC solid waste permit was that Casella study options for treating leachate from the Coventry landfill to reduce PFAS levels before it goes to wastewater treatment plants. Brown and Caldwell, the consulting firm hired by Casella to conduct that study, estimated that this additional treatment could cost anywhere from $32 million to $394 million over 20 years. The landfill owner also had to study PFAS levels in incoming waste…”