Superior Court Judge Dismisses PFOA Case Against The State

Aug 29, 2016

A Washington Superior Court Judge has thrown out a law suit that challenged the state's interim safety standard for the chemical PFOA.

The manufacturing company Saint-Gobain filed the suit, claiming the state didn't have the scientific data to back up its drinking water standard of 20 parts per trillion, which is lower than the standard of 70 parts per trillion set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alyssa Schuren says the judge's decision bolsters Vermont's move to set a health advisory level below the federal standard.

"Our health department went through a very rigorous analysis of different pieces of information on the chemicals PFOA and PFOS," Schuren says. "We feel very good about the process that we've done at the state and also about our 20 parts per trillion and the science behind that. And so this wasn't unexpected for us, but it was welcomed."

PFOA has been linked to a number of adverse health effects and the chemical has been detected in 259 private wells around Bennington.

Saint-Gobain owned the factories which are the suspected sources of the contamination.

"The Washington Superior Court held that the interim PFOA standard of 20ppt was nullified when the state enacted an emergency rule in its place," a Saint-Gobain spokeswoman said in a prepared statement. " Saint-Gobain’s two other legal challenges to the 20ppt standard remain active."

In the case that was dismissed last week, Saint-Gobain claimed that Vermont did not go through an adequate rule making process when it set its interim groundwater enforcement standard at 20 parts per trillion.

The company also claimed that the low standard lacked the data to support it.

In his decision, Washington County Superior Court Judge Timothy Tomasi said Saint-Gobain's suit was moot because the state has since adopted an emergency rule for regulating PFOA in water.

Tomasi said the state had the authority to adopt the interim standard for regulating PFOA because there was no health standard in place when the chemical was first detected in Bennington earlier this year.

The company was questioning the interim standard, which Tomasi said was no longer being used since an emergency rule is now in place.

The company has two other lawsuits against the state's PFOA health advisory pending in Vermont courts, and Schuren says she expects both of those to be dismissed as well.

Vermont has been working with Saint-Gobain as the state confronts the water contamination in Bennington County.

The company has been paying for bottled water and carbon filters, as well as for the blood tests that were conducted earlier this year.

There is not yet an agreement in place with Saint-Gobain on covering costs for extending municipal water supplies to the homes with PFOA contamination.

That project is expected to top $25 million.

Update 8:46 a.m. 8/29/16 This story has been updated to include a statement from a Saint-Gobain spokeswoman.