New water lines replace contaminated wells in Bennington

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 5:19 PM EST
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BENNINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s a problem that took years to solve, but more than 400 Bennington households now have clean tap water.

In 2016, it was determined their drinking water was unsafe because it contained chemicals from a nearby factory.

Our Olivia Lyons introduces you to one couple thankful to have safe water again.

“It’s really, really, really nice to have this water,” Lora Block said.

Lora and Robert Block used to have a well. But when PFAS were found in their water, they made the switch to the new waterline.

“I was amazed. I really was amazed because I didn’t know anything. None of us knew how this worked,” Lora Block said.

PFAS were used at the now-closed Chemfab Corporation factory in North Bennington that’s now owned by Saint-Gobain.

Hundreds of private wells were contaminated with the chemical which has been linked to cancer and other illnesses.

“What we thought was our pure water in our well, in a house that we lived in for 43 years and raised our two daughters. We thought the well was wonderful and we didn’t know any different,” Block said.

Because it’s almost impossible to extract PFAS from groundwater, Saint-Gobain agreed to spend millions to extend 21 miles of municipal water lines to these homes.

The Blocks say in September 2020 they were finally connected after months of construction.

Before the new water system, the water looked OK to drink, but it wasn’t. Now, the Blocks don’t have to worry and it’s clean for everyone.

But not everyone got on board. Of the 482 eligible households, 37 are not connecting.

Peter Walke is Vermont’s Environmental Conservation commissioner. He says for some extending the waterline was not a feasible alternative.

“In those cases, we have been trying to drill new wells for them and if new wells were not an option, then maintaining their treatment system so that they were getting clean healthy water and will be forever,” Walke said.

And Saint-Gobain is paying residents $34 million as part of a settlement for contaminating their soil and groundwater. The company is also paying to monitor the health of everyone who drank that contaminated water.

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