Residents near a Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. plant in Vermont filed a class action lawsuit against the company May 6, accusing it of polluting groundwater sources with perfluorooctanoic acid.
The lawsuit accuses Saint-Gobain and previous owners of the North Bennington, Vt., factory of negligence in discharging “significant” amounts of PFOA into the environment as part of its manufacturing of fluoropolymer products over a 20-year period.
The suit, filed in federal court in Rutland, Vt., seeks more than $5 million in damages, environmental cleanup, health testing and for Saint-Gobain to pay to connect homes to local municipal water systems.
Saint-Gobain's discharge of PFOA “has resulted in the severe contamination of the local groundwater aquifer, soils, and numerous private drinking water supply wells with PFOA in and around Bennington and North Bennington,” the suit alleges.
The lawsuit said that after PFOA contamination was discovered in drinking water systems in nearby Hoosick Falls, N.Y., Vermont's Department of Environmental Conservation began testing drinking water wells around the North Bennington plant.
DEC found PFOA concentrations higher than Vermont regulations allowed in 106 of 180 wells within 1.5 miles of the plant, the suit said.
Vermont sets a standard of no more than 20 parts per trillion of PFOA in water, which is much more stringent than the 100 parts per trillion in provisional standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In a statement, Saint-Gobain said its priority is to ensure that North Bennington residents have clean drinking water.
“Saint-Gobain has acted quickly and openly since learning of the presence of PFOA in private wells, including funding bottled water and point-of-entry filtration systems, as well as discussing potential long-term solutions,” the company said. “We will continue to work cooperatively with the State to address concerns over the drinking water.”
As well, the company said it was challenging Vermont 20 parts per trillion standard in court, to “understand the specific science the State has evaluated and vetted that led to setting the limit at this level.”
“We respect Vermont's right to set its own PFOA limits in a fair manner and based on sound science, but it's important that the State adopt a standard that is reasonably appropriate, protective, and realistic from a public health standpoint,” Saint-Gobain said.