BENNINGTON — A day after announcing that the state would begin testing drinking water at 11 other sites in various municipalities around Vermont, state officials said they plan to expand testing to other parts of Bennington and possibly in neighboring Shaftsbury.
On Thursday, the office of Gov. Peter Shumlin announced that elevated levels of PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, were found in 19 of 50 samples taken from private wells in North Bennington last week.
While no national standard has been set, the Vermont Department of Health recommends people not drink the water or use it for brushing teeth or cooking, if the concentration of PFOA is greater than 20 parts per trillion.
The newest information shows some test results were as low as 22 parts per trillion while the highest level was 471 parts per trillion.
From the other 31 samples, 22 showed no presence of PFOA and nine showed results less than 20 parts per trillion.
From 232 water supplies sampled in North Bennington, the results of 126 showed PFOA above 20 parts per trillion and 86 results showed no PFOA.
However, five monitoring wells around the Bennington landfill were tested and showed results from 18 parts per trillion to 140 parts per trillion. The findings could be significant because the landfill is off Houghton Lane, almost 4 miles from the former ChemFab manufacturing plant which is believed to be the source of PFOA in North Bennington.
Because of the latest results, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation will expand its testing to another 150 wells.
Next week, samples will be collected around the Bennington landfill and south to Route 9 between the William H. Morse State Airport and Old Bennington. DEC will also conduct a series of “spot checks” outside the testing area on Corey Lane, Whipstock Road and Airport Road along Route 7A and in the Shaftsbury area, near Cold Spring Road.
The expansion of the testing is expected to provide more information about the extent of contamination in the area.
On Wednesday, Shumlin’s office said water would be tested at sites in Essex, South Hero, Colchester, Shelburne, South Burlington, Winooski, Essex and Williston, as well as at the Pittsford Fire Academy and the National Guard Air Force Base in Burlington.
According to a press release, those areas are believed to be sites where PFOA might be found because of manufacturing processes and the repeated use of fire-fighting foam. There has been no evidence yet of PFOA contamination in those towns.
PFOA, a manmade chemical that was used in products like microwave popcorn bags, non-stick cookware and stain-resistant carpet, has been linked to a number of health issues such as testicular and kidney cancer and high blood pressure.
Staff with the DEC is reaching out to residents who live in the expanded sampling areas who may sign up for testing at www.anr.state.vt.us/dec/PFOA.htm.
Bottled water will be available at the North Bennington Variety Store, at 49 Route 67 West, for people in the area who want to use it while waiting for the test results.
Residents can call 211 with questions.
A community meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 18 at Bennington College’s Greenwall Auditorium in the Visual and Performing Arts Center.