Water contamination found at two Chittenden County sites

Wells near former Hercules Inc., IBM plants test positive

originally posted on July 14, 2016


Two new sites in Chittenden County have tested positive for groundwater contamination, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Wednesday.

Officials are trying to determine if any private wells are contaminated with the cancer-causing chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

All 12 groundwater monitoring wells at the former Hercules Inc. plant in Colchester contained PFOA in concentrations ranging from 77 to 7,200 parts per trillion — currently the highest reading for the contaminant in the state.

One groundwater monitoring well outside of the property did not show detectable concentrations of PFOA. Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, was not detected in any samples at the Hercules site.

Eight of the 15 groundwater monitoring wells at the former IBM facility in Essex Junction contained PFOA in concentrations ranging from 8 to 190 parts per trillion. Four wells contained concentrations of PFOS up to 120 parts per trillion.

The health advisory level set by the Vermont Department of Health is a combined level of 20 parts per trillion for both chemicals. The contamination was confined to the property.

Champlain Cable operates the former Hercules site. The sites were included in statewide testing earlier this year.

Shumlin said drinking water contamination is not a major concern because there appeared to be few private wells near both sites. There are fewer than 10 private wells within a 1 mile radius of the Hercules site (at 175 Hercules Drive in Colchester) and none within a 1 mile radius of the IBM site (at 1000 River St. in Essex Junction), officials said.

“It’s important to know that the vast majority of folks in Chittenden County get their drinking water from the Champlain Water District — that’s the municipal source that they’re drawing from — and that water is clean,” said Alyssa Schuren, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. “So these are really environmental issues that we’ll need to be addressing underground in the groundwater.”

Of the 11 sites originally part of the statewide perfluorinated compound testing plan, results are in for all but one facility. The state is still waiting on results from groundwater collected at the former Harbour Industries property in Shelburne.

Drinking water wells surrounding the site tested earlier in June were found to not be contaminated by PFC. The companies involved in the contamination are working with the DEC to fund future cleanups Schuren said in a phone interview with WPTZ.

The two other statewide testing sites where PFOA and PFOS were detected include an underground storage tank at the Pittsford Fire Academy and a groundwater collection trench at the Air National Guard Base in South Burlington. No private drinking water wells were affected near either site.

PFOA can be prevalent in wire coating industries and certain synthetic fabrics, whereas PFOS is often present in Scotchguard and firefighting foam.

The state has no plan to expand the testing of PFCs at this time. Precautionary testing will be required if information surfaces that indicates potential historic use of these compounds at any property.

Anyone with wells within 1 mile of the Colchester or Essex Junction sites may call the Department of Environmental Conservation at 802-828-1138.

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