PFOA Found In Colchester And Essex Junction, Including Site With Highest Concentration Yet

Jul 13, 2016

Groundwater at sites in Colchester and Essex Junction has tested positive for the presence of potentially harmful perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), according to the Shumlin administration, though officials say they're not concerned about a health risk at this time.

Wells at the former IBM plant in Essex Junction showed traces of two perflourinated compounds, PFOA and PFO. Wells at the former Hercules manufacturing plant in Colchester show traces of PFOA.

While there are no private drinking wells within a 1-mile radius of the Essex plant, there are a few wells within 1 mile of the Hercules site in Colchester.

However, most people in Chittenden County are on municipal drinking water that is clean, said Alyssa Schuren, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conversation.

“We’re not really looking at a public health issue here at this point,” Schuren said. “These are areas we'll be managing from an environmental perspective, primarily.”

Residents with a private drinking well within a 1-mile radius of either site should contact the Department of Environmental Conservation, according to a release from the Shumlin administration.

Both sites showed concentrations of chemicals that exceeded the Vermont Department of Health’s advisory level, which is 20 parts per trillion.

At the IBM site, eight of the 15 monitoring wells show PFOA contamination ranging from 8 to 190 parts per trillion. The four wells that contained PFO showed concentrations of up to 120 parts per million.

The former site of the Hercules manufacturing plant in Colchester had monitoring wells that contained concentrations of PFOA ranging from 77 to 7,200 parts per trillion.

Schuren said the well with a PFOA concentration of 7,200 parts per trillion is the highest that’s been found in the state.

“The highest level we have seen in the North Bennington-Bennington area has been right around 2,300 or so,” Schuren said. “This is orders of magnitude higher, and we’re looking right now on the site as to why.”

Schuren said it’s possible that the chemicals used at the Hercules site might have been dumped into a couple of pits and the test well may have been one of those dumping spots.  

The state has been testing former industrial sites across Vermont for PFCs and has received results from all but one site: the former Harbour Industries property in Shelburne.

Schuren said she expects the results from Shelburne soon.