MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin says tests on surface water samples collected in Bennington and North Bennington show levels of a potentially cancer-causing chemical to be so low as to pose no threat to the health of people or fish.
Officials on Thursday said 10 samples were taken from local creeks and ponds around the former facilities of Chemfab, which made products primarily from flexible polymer materials. They said they will be testing fish from the bodies of water in the coming weeks for the chemical PFOA strictly as a precautionary measure.
Vermont officials began testing private wells in the North Bennington area after the chemical was found in the water supply in nearby Hoosick Falls, New York.
Since then, elevated but still low levels have been found in about 100 samples. Results released last week on testing done from samples taken from Pownal marked the first time PFOA was found in a public drinking water system in Vermont.
Public water supplies in Bennington and North Bennington were unaffected, but some private wells in the area were shown to have low levels of the chemical.
Officials said Thursday that the highest PFOA concentration was found in surface water taken from the pond on the Bennington College campus. Those results showed a concentration of PFOA of 79 parts per trillion in the pond water, while concentrations of 752 million parts per trillion were required to have a negative effect on rainbow trout.
"It is unlikely these concentrations would pose an ecological risk to fish and other aquatic organisms in these waters," Department of Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter said.
The chemical, now being phased out in the U.S., was used for decades in the manufacture of common products, including Teflon pans, carpets and the linings of pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags.
Merrimack, New Hampshire-based Chemfab Corp. was acquired by French glass and building materials group Saint-Gobain. The Vermont Chemfab plant was taken over in 2000 by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Inc., which operated it until its 2002 closure.