Vt. senator visited North Bennington to learn more about water crisis

Patrick Leahy

NORTH BENNINGTON, Vt. (NEWS10) – A Vermont senator visited the state health department on Friday to learn more about the PFOA contamination in North Bennington.

Earlier in the week, more people in North Bennington with private wells learned their water was contaminated with PFOA. It’s the same chemical found in the water in Hoosick Falls and is considered a carcinogen.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin said the state is going into crisis management mode to handle the contamination, and on Friday, Sen. Patrick Leahy visited the state health department.

Leahy also visited with people affected by the contamination and community leaders. North Bennington homeowner Ellen Vireck was in the crowd. She was eager to get her well tested.

“Very scary when you’re not sure if the water you’re drinking is okay,” she said.

The senator was in the village to assure her he’s planning to go back to Washington to bring the water issue to light.

“This is so new,” Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen said. “It’s emerging.”

At the state health department, Dr. Chen told Leahy there’s little science behind PFOA and the long-term affect it can have on the body. That’s why more studies need to be done at the federal level.

“One of the problems they have is funding,” Leahy said.

Leahy said he’s going to push for more funding on the federal level to have more studies.

“They’re gonna need money for the CDC,” he said. “They’re gonna need money for others. I will work to get that money.”

While more testing is done on private wells in North Bennington, the village also wants to learn about other roots of exposure. Vireck said she’s pleased to see people taking action.

“Just that they’re really gonna get on it, and stick with it until it’s solved,” she said.

Tests at the edge of the initial 1.5-mile radius from the former ChemFab plant have shown PFOA contamination, so state officials said testing will be expanded further out.

Dr. Chen also said the health department will begin blood testing within the village sometime in April. They are also working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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