March 23, 2016

Vermont Looks to Lead in Discussion of New Regulations for Water Contamination

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Radius of contamination in North Bennington, VT. (source: Vermont Agency of Natural Resources)

Radius of contamination in North Bennington, VT. (source: Vermont Agency of Natural Resources)

 

Montpelier (March 23) – Contaminated drinking water in one town in Southern Vermont is raising broader concerns in the Statehouse.

Discussion of the need for new and stronger regulations regarding drinking water contamination reached the House Committee of Fish, Wildlife & Water Resources today.

The appearance of this discussion in the Statehouse has been spurred by a recent discovery of high levels of Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in over 100 individual wells in North Bennington, Vermont.

Committee Chair, David Deen, began by saying that today’s meeting was meant to begin a longer discussion of the issue of contaminated drinking water and harmful chemicals in our environment. The case of the contamination in North Bennington has brought a sense of urgency to the discussion.

Deb Markowitz, Secretary at the Agency of Natural Resources, began the testimony with an introduction to the contaminant in question, PFOA.

Markowitz mentioned that the chemical is extremely widespread, used in countless household items and thus present in the bloodstream of nearly everyone in low concentrations. However, sustained ingestion of PFOA contaminated water has been linked to serious health problems.

Some of the health impacts related to long-term exposure to PFOAs include: cancers, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and prenatal complications.

Despite this, PFOA is not listed as a toxic pollutant at the federal level. It is however, no longer used in the United States following an order from the EPA to phase out the chemical completely by 2015.

Unfortunately for North Bennington, a factory located on the banks of the town’s main river produced Teflon coated fabrics used PFOA from the mid 1970’s until the plant closed down in the early 2000’s.

Multiple state agencies are now working to solve the contamination problem for residents of North Bennington, while also looking to policy changes that could prevent similar issues in the future.

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