MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A toxic chemical found to have contaminated the water system of an upstate New York village has been found in five locations in the nearby Vermont community of North Bennington, Gov. Peter Shumlin and other top officials said Thursday.
The contamination of the potentially cancer-causing chemical, known as PFOA, was found in water from private wells for three homes in North Bennington, a landscaping business and the non-potable water supply for a waste water treatment plant that were tested after Vermont officials heard news reports about the contamination found in nearby Hoosick Falls, New York.
The public water supply that serves North Bennington was tested, but no contamination was found in that system, officials said.
"We're going to obviously now test for private wells and public supplies in the region," Shumlin, a Democrat, said Thursday at a news conference called two hours after state officials received the test results showing the contamination.
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, a producer of high-performance polymer products, owns the factory believed to be responsible for the contamination. The company, part of Paris-based Saint-Gobain Corp., said it would pay for bottled water and filtering systems for the affected locations and any others that might be found in the future.
"We will cooperate with all local, state and federal officials as they investigate and manage this issue," it said in a statement.
The three residential wells, including at a home with children, showed a range of PFOA, or perfluorooctonaoic acid, of between 40 parts per trillion and 2,880 ppt. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set a non-enforceable short-term exposure limit of 400 ppt for PFOA in drinking water, and Vermont set its own standard at 20 ppt.
PFOA was used for decades in nonstick and stain-resistant coatings and hundreds of other products.
In December, the EPA told the 4,500 Hoosick Falls residents who use the village system to stop drinking the water. New York officials traced the contamination to the site of the village's largest employer, a factory acquired by Saint-Gobain, which is providing the free bottled water to village residents while a new filtration system is installed.
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen said Thursday there had been no reports of anyone getting sick from the contamination. He said that in other settings, such as factories, long-term exposure to PFOA had been shown to cause a variety of health problems, including cancer.
Health officials will be working with people who were exposed and their medical providers. Vermont officials also are planning to meet with local residents over the next several days.
"We don't expect any acute health effects," Chen said. "I think the important thing is to both assess what the total exposure is, to ensure that people don't have ongoing exposure, (and) to share information about how an individual can get evaluated."