BENNINGTON — A state study reclassifying the water supply in parts of Bennington, North Bennington and Shaftsbury to “nonpotable” — unsuitable for drinking — has raised worries about the cost of upgrading wells and connecting to municipal water.
Many homes within the designated area were connected to town water through a settlement with Saint-Gobain, which now owns ChemFab, the company responsible for widespread pollution in the Bennington area. But it was either impossible or impractical to hook up all homes in the area to municipal lines, and those who were left out of that deal are now responsible for securing long-term access to clean, safe water.
Bennington Town Manager Stuart Hurd said a total of 255 homes in the town of Bennington, which doesn’t include North Bennington, were affected by the pollution, and he estimated that 150 homes have been connected to municipal water.
“I’m guessing there are maybe in the range of 50 to 75 property owners who are in the reclassification area that are not connected to municipal water,” Hurd said.
The settlement requires Saint-Gobain to continually test wells and provide carbon filtration point-of-entry systems to anyone in the area whose levels of PFAS are above the state standard of 20 parts per trillion. Some had new wells drilled as part of the settlement, too, but those who haven’t had their systems replaced are wondering what the new designation will mean and what it will cost.
‘Something seems to be amiss’
In 2016, the state discovered per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, a class of chemicals also referred to as PFAS, in the drinking water supply of hundreds of Bennington residents. The contamination came largely from air pollution produced by two former factories, which closed in 1978 and 2002, run by ChemFab, a company that used PFAS to manufacture Teflon-coated fabrics. It’s now owned by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp.
Studies have shown that ingestion of PFAS, particularly PFOA and PFOS, can cause high cholesterol, a weakened immune system, thyroid disease and cancer.
After the chemicals were widely discovered, Saint-Gobain was required to provide bottled water and install and maintain carbon filtering point-of-entry systems to residents. Later, a 2019 settlement between the state and Saint-Gobain required the company to pay for extensions to the municipal water system so residents with tainted water could be connected and required continual testing of residents’ wells in the affected area.
The company also funded a state study for reclassifying water in the area, in which the Department of Environmental Conservation concluded that a large swath of the area’s underground water supply is not suitable for drinking.
The state has begun proceedings to change the water…