Vt. governor signs bill to protect citizens from toxic chemicals after water crisis in North Bennington

BENNINGTON, Vt. (NEWS10) – The Vermont governor signed a new bill into law that helps protects citizens in the event of a water contamination crisis.

It’s been three months since the PFOA water crisis hit North Bennington. Many people still don’t trust their tap water even with filters installed.

On Wednesday, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a new law that holds water polluters responsible and protects people in the future from having to resort to just drinking bottled water.

Shumlin took a jab at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as soon as he took to the lectern to sign the bill.

“I’ll ask this question: When was the last time your governor showed up for a press conference?” he said.

“Okay, 6, 1, 16 – signed, sealed, delivered,” he said as he signed the bill.

The new law creates a working group on toxic chemicals to submit recommendations to state lawmakers on how to reduce exposure to those chemicals. It also allows the Agency of Natural Resources to go after companies liable for releasing hazardous material and seek damages.

“It’s not every day, a governor comes to your town and signs a law,” resident George Lerrigo said.

It was an official act that moved some homeowners to tears.

“Because it is emotional,” one man said. “I know these people. They are friends of mine, neighbors of mine.”

But the concerns aren’t over just because a new toxic chemical law has been signed.

“I’ve already experienced some of the financial impact of getting rid of PFOAs,” resident Laurie Mulhern said. “I’ve already incurred expenses replacing water in the swimming pool.”

Mulhern’s well was contaminated with PFOA. She’s concerned about her family budget, so she told the governor about it on Wednesday.

“Make sure you keep track of all your expenses,” Shumlin told the crowd. “Keep all your receipts.”

But it wasn’t enough for Mulhern.

“It doesn’t really solve anything,” she said. “I have to say I appreciate the response.”

The state is also planning to extend the municipal drinking water line. The initial cost will be around $16 million. Shumlin hopes the money will come from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics.

“If we can agree on the money, we should get it going pretty quickly,” he said.

The first set of recommendations by the new working group will be submitted to the state legislature on January 15, 2017.

As for conversations with Saint-Gobain, those continue next week.

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