PFOA: No-drink order lifted on Pownal, Vt., public water system


POWNAL, VT. >> Residents who drank bottled water for months after a potentially harmful chemical turned up in a municipal water system can again drink from the tap.

Test results show a new filter is removing PFOA from water from the Pownal Fire District No. 2, Gov. Peter Shumlin's office announced on Thursday afternoon.

Shumlin will hold an event on Monday at 3:30 p.m. "to acknowledge the milestone and community members involved in achieving clean water again," an announcement from the governor's office stated. The event will be held at the system's wellhead and treatment system at 735 Route 346 in Pownal.

The granular activated carbon filter was installed by Unicorn Management Consultants earlier this month. The entire water system had to be flushed before residents could drink the water. American Premier Underwriters (APU) agreed to pay for the filters.

"Today's announcement means the people of the Pownal can return to their everyday life as it was before this disruption," Shumlin said in a release. "Community members here have stepped up to the plate in true 'Vermont Strong' fashion, and now we're drinking clean water again only four months later."

"Ensuring safe drinking water is one of the most important things people count on their government to do," state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alyssa Schuren said in a press release. "I thank all the state, local and private officials, as well as many volunteers, who brought the clean municipal system online so quickly."

The state issued a no-drink order in March after levels of PFOA, a man-made chemical formerly used to make Teflon, were found above the state's limit of 20 parts per trillion (ppt). Water from the system, which serves some 450 customers in the village of Pownal, had levels of 26 and 27 ppt.

Technicians for the state then tested 92 private wells around the villages of Pownal and North Pownal. Of those, seven had PFOA levels above the state's limit, between 22.7 and 66.2 ppt. Levels were below 20 ppt in 12 wells. PFOA was not detected in 73 wells, according to the DEC.

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, is linked to cancers and other diseases. It's the same chemical that turned up in Bennington and North Bennington, the Shaftsbury landfill, and around Hoosick Falls, N.Y.

The likely source in Pownal is the former Warren Wire No. 1/General Cable facility on Route 346, according to the DEC.

APU, as a successor to General Cable, agreed to pay for some costs, including the system's filter, bottled water for residents and filters on private wells.

"APU continues to work with the State to conduct a site investigation and consider remedial options," according to the governor's announcement.

The company has not yet signed a consent order that holds it responsible for contamination. DEC has said it is in talks with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics about a consent order for contamination around North Bennington.

The 120,000-square-foot factory on Route 346 lies about 1,000 feet north of the water system's pump and wellhead. Warren Wire started at the 10-acre property in 1948. The property changed hands several times and was eventually sold to General Cable, later known as GK Technologies. That company was bought in 1981 by a holding company for the Pennsylvania Central Railroad Company that later changed it's name to APU.

Mack Molding has owned the building since 1988 and most recently used it as a warehouse.

Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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