Read the full article by Jim Therrien (Bennington Banner)
“BENNINGTON — The sponsors of legislation to help Vermonters obtain medical monitoring after exposure to toxic substances announced a third legislative effort on the issue Friday, proposing a new version of a bill that was twice vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott.
Sens. Brian Campion and Dick Sears, both Bennington Democrats, and supporters of the proposal, spoke Friday afternoon outside the former ChemFab Corp. factory building in North Bennington. The plant is considered by the state a primary source of PFOA contamination of hundreds of local wells.
The senators said the newly drafted medical monitoring bill, following prior versions in 2019 and 2020, addresses concerns voiced by the governor that such legislation would discourage companies from locating or expanding in Vermont.
‘Legislation has twice passed by the House and Senate that would help address this issue and both times the bill has been vetoed by the governor,’ Campion said.
SMALL FIRMS EXEMPT
He added, ‘For those concerned about the impact of medical monitoring on business interests, this bill is more protective of the vast majority of Vermont businesses than the decision [in U.S. District Court]. That’s because it exempts small businesses, municipalities, and farmers — while the court’s decision does not.’
A 2019 determination by Judge Geoffrey Crawford that plaintiffs can legally seek medical monitoring costs came during an ongoing class-action suit by a number of Bennington residents in federal court in Rutland.
The suit seeks those and other damages from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, which purchased the former ChemFab Corp. two years prior to closing the North Bennington plant on Water Street in 2002.
Saint-Gobain is considered by state environmental officials to be the responsible party for the PFOA, believed to have spread through exhaust stacks around two factory sites in town and worked into the groundwater.
‘If the court’s decision stands,’ Campion said, ‘small businesses, municipalities and farmers will have exposure for liability they will not have in our bill.’
‘POLLUTERS SHOULD PAY’
Sears, who lives within the identified PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) contamination zone in Bennington and is a plaintiff to the federal suit, said, ‘This bill will help protect Vermonters who have been exposed to toxic substances, through no fault of their own, by making the polluter pay.’
While the area has worked to find other sources of clean drinking water for those with contaminated wells – largely funded by Saint-Gobain through consent agreements with the state Agency of Natural Resources — medical monitoring and other issues remain to be fully addressed, he said.
‘We thought it was common sense that whoever caused the pollution would pay for the pollution that they caused,’ Sears said…”