PFOA Testing Expanded To Include 11 More Sites, Many In Chittenden County

Apr 6, 2016

Gov. Peter Shumlin has announced that the state will test additional manufacturing sites around Vermont for PFOA, a suspected carcinogen that's been found in North Bennington and Pownal.

The Department of Environmental Conservation says it's tracked down 11 other locations that might have used the chemical, including eight in Chittenden County. Among them is the former IBM plant, now owned by GlobalFoundries.

The state first discovered elevated levels of PFOA in North Bennington in February.

Since then, Commissioner Alyssa Schuren says her staff has been poring through company records from across Vermont to discover where PFOA-tainted supplies might have been used in manufacturing.

The companies that will be tested include wire coating and semi-conductor manufacturers, which have both been linked to PFOA.

Two locations where firefighting foam was used will also be tested.

"We started with the existing literature that was out there across the country. Then we looked at in Vermont — at the types of industries that were outlined in those literature reviews — and we picked up the phone and we called them," Schuren says. "Once we got that information from the different companies we had a list that we felt like was a reasonable list to start sampling from."

It's been a challenge to track down the companies because before it was fully phased out in 2015, PFOA was unregulated, and companies were not required to track their use of the chemical.

Schuren says water will be tested near the former IBM facility in Essex, Champlain Cable in Colchester, Harbour Industries and unaffiliated former Harbour Industries sites in Shelburne and Colchester, SuperTemp in South Burlington and Winooski, Belden Wire & Cable in Essex and Williston and the Vermont Air National Guard Base in South Burlington.

Other sites include Phoenix Wire in South Hero and the Pittsford Fire Academy in Pittsford.

"We will need to identify responsible parties in each of these cases if tests come back positive in order to sustain the level of effort that we've been putting in in the North Bennington, Bennington and Pownal areas." — Alyssa Schuren, Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner

Initial tests will be conducted near each site, and if more contamination is discovered additional testing will be done.

The Department of Environmental Conservation has been pushed to its limits addressing the contamination in North Bennington and Pownal.

Schuren says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will play a greater role in taking on some of the additional testing, which will continue for three to four weeks.

And she says the state will make sure companies are held accountable if PFOA is discovered in the environment.

"We will need to identify responsible parties in each of these cases if tests come back positive in order to sustain the level of effort that we've been putting in in the North Bennington, Bennington and Pownal areas," Schuren says. "And we will look to those companies to either voluntarily cover the costs. And if it's not voluntary, we will need to move to more legal options."

Schuren told lawmakers last week that the state's Environmental Contingency Fund, which is being used to address the water crisis, will be drained by the end of the year if the department continues to use the money.

Schuren stressed that her department doesn't believe there's widespread contamination across the state, and  the sites are being tested to be proactive.

13 of the largest municipal water systems have been tested and show no elevated levels of PFOA.