Three Vermont law firms, along with a North Carolina environmental law team, have reached an agreement to work together to represent some of the residents in North Bennington who are dealing with PFOA contamination in their water.
PFOA is a suspected carcinogen, and the company Saint-Gobain owned the former Chemfab plant in North Bennington, which is believed to be the source of the contamination.
David Silver, an attorney with BarrSternberg in Bennington, says that while Saint-Gobain has been working with residents and with the state to deliver clean water, the people in North Bennington will be facing health and financial challenges long into the future.
"No matter what is decided by Saint-Gobain and the state, Saint-Gobain isn't going to just write a check to the individual clients," Silver says. "Each client's going to need an advocate, regardless of the lawsuit. And the state has an agenda that is consistent with the interest of our clients, but it's not addressing all the interests of our clients. And that is what we are doing."
Silver says he and some of the other attorneys have been to community meetings, and have been contacted by people in North Bennington. About 20 people have so far indicated an interest in working with the law team, Silver said.
Saint-Gobain and the state have been agreeing on every step of remediation during the crisis.
But last week, the company filed two complaints in Vermont courts questioning the state's low PFOA safe water standard of 20 parts per trillion.
"Several clients have come to us and said, 'Look, my kids and me have been drinking this water for years and decades. We're scared and we're worried,'" Silver says. "Also people have come to me and said, 'Gee. Saint-Gobain has now challenged the state's standard for safe levels of PFOA, if there's such a thing, in water.' And this doesn't give any of my clients a lot of confidence that Saint-Gobain is going to do the right thing."
Silver says the team is just starting its work and it will likely be a while before legal actions are filed against Saint-Gobain.
Davis & Whitlock, the North Carolina firm that is involved with the North Bennington case, filed a class action lawsuit last year against the chemical company 3M for its role in manufacturing PFOA at an Alabama facility.