POWNAL — Water testing for PFOA contamination near the Pownal town offices is expected to resume this month, while results from samples taken in North Pownal revealed some hot spots clustered around former Pownal Tanning Co. sites.
Trish Coppolino, Brownfields Program manager for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said that monitoring well tests at a former Warren Wire Co. industrial site at the corner of Route 7 and North Pownal Road found elevated levels of PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid).
Tests at five monitoring wells found PFOA levels of from 4.5 to 320 parts per trillion, she said. Vermont considers 20 parts per trillion the standard level for a health advisory.
Tests of surface water on the site showed a range of from 2.8 to 22 parts per trillion of PFOA.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency, which performed the initial monitor well tests and some soil testing for the state in August on the former industrial parcel, now will collect samples from about 20 selected sites around that acre-size lot. The parcel is located across from the Pownal Valley Fire Department driveway and is now open land.
Coppolino said the testing will focus on the North Pownal Road, Center Street area. Property owners were notified of the pending sampling.
The good news, she said, is that tests of water at the town offices on Center Street, the Cozy Meadow Mobile Home Park across Route 7 from the site, and the Pownal Elementary School and the Oak Hill Children's Center further north off Route 7 did not detect PFOA contamination.
The former Warren Wire Co. site on Route 7 once worked with Teflon, Coppolino said, referring to a common source for PFOA. Warren Wire had its main plant on Route 346 in the town, and that parcel also is a suspected source of PFOA contamination, including at the well head for the nearby Pownal Fire District No. 2 and its approximately 450 water customers.
Tests of dozens of wells and monitoring wells emanating out from the main plant were taken last year after PFOA contamination was identified in the spring. The former factory is considered the likely source of PFOA in that area of town.
The fire district now has a temporary filtering plant installed beside the well head, and a search is in progress to locate another site for a new source well. The underwriting firm that has accepted responsibility for the former Warren Wire factory site on Route 346 has agreed to pay for certain costs associated with the filtering system, individual filtering at affected private wells in the area and initially for bottled water for residents.
The fire district water system does not extend to North Pownal village or to the Pownal Center locations around the town offices.
The Cozy Meadow park off Route 7 has its own water system, Coppolino said, and its source is to the east of Route 7 and was found to be unaffected by the contamination.
She also noted that wells around the town offices are for the most part deep, drilled wells, as opposed to the several shallow, dug wells found in North Pownal village. Having a deep well in bedrock could protect the groundwater, she said, if the contamination is closer to the surface.
In North Pownal, a new set of test results was recently received by the state for private wells and other sites, mostly in the areas around the former Pownal Tanning Co. site. The razed mill was located at the intersection of Route 346 and Dean Road, alongside the Hoosic River.
Coppolino said the higher readings were found in the areas around the former tannery sludge lagoon site near the town waste water treatment plant, around the former factory site itself, and off Dean Road, where a landfill was created to accept lagoon wastes during a federal Superfund cleanup project in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Coppolino said residents where those private wells were found to be contaminated were provided with bottled water until point-of-entry water treatment systems could be installed at those properties. She said most now have filters in place, while four households are still receiving bottled water.
In all, a total of 135 Pownal sites have been tested for PFOA, according to figures provided by the DEC. Of those, no PFOA was detected at 95 sites, less than 20 ppt was detected at 23 sites and more than 20 ppt was detected at 17 sites.
The highest readings were 66.2 ppt and 44.2 ppt, both on Route 346, and 39.7 ppt on Dean Road.
Thus far, Coppolino said, no potentially responsible party has been identified for the North Pownal village contamination. She said she has as yet not been able to determine whether any industrial activity at the former tannery might have involved PFOAs. In those cases, she said, the state is covering the water filtering and other costs associated with the contamination.
The federal government funded 90 percent of the Superfund cleanup for the site, and the state provided 10 percent and is responsible for continued operations and maintenance for the former tannery parcels.
She said that if any residents would like to request testing of a water supply, they should contact her at 802-249-5822, or email@example.com.
Jim Therrien writes for the Bennington Banner and VTDigger.org. He can be reached at 802-447-7567, ext. 114.