Long-term filtering may be only solution to Pownal pollution

The carbon filtering system is located next to the Pownal Fire District 2 well. File photo by Jim Therrien/VTDigger
POWNAL — Pownal Fire District 2 board members learned on Monday that district water customers may have no option but permanent filtering to rid their drinking water of PFOA, the compound that has been found to contaminate numerous wells in southwestern Vermont.
Representatives from Unicorn Management Consultants, which was hired to solve the district’s water problems, said there has been no resumption of talks with the owner of an alternative well site that had been under consideration late last year.
Talks with the owner of the site on the Pollert tree farm off Northwest Hill Road apparently broke down over money.
Unicorn Management’s Michael O’Connor said Monday that the consultants would submit a report to the state outlining possible long-term solutions. The report is due Apr. 26.
PFOA is currently being filtered from the drinking water through an enclosed carbon filtering system installed near the district well, on Route 346.
Filtering was regarded as a temporary solution, pending a search for a new well site. A proposal by Unicorn Management on Feb. 26, to leave the filtering system in place, was rejected by the board as inadequate.
District resident Jim Winchester illustrated the challenge of maintaining a filtering system by bringing a blackened water filter from a rental property he owns in the district.
“It was pretty ugly looking,” Winchester said of the gunk in his filter.
The tar-like deposits are likely the result of naturally occurring manganese reacting with chlorine, board members said.
The consultants said they were working with the district to resolve clogging issues.
Board members have urged Unicorn to reach out to landowner Terry Pollert, to make a counter offer for his farm property, but O’Connor said Monday there had been no further contact with him.
The consultants also had considered a site on the former Green Mountain Race Track property, but negotiations with its owners also broke down. The track property is in foreclosure proceedings in Bennington Superior Court Civil Division.
Tim Raymond, chief of the Operations and Engineering Section of the state’s Public Drinking Water Program, notified the consultants in February that even with improvements the filtering system initially proposed by Unicorn would not meet Vermont water supply standards.
If a new well is not possible, Raymond said, the insurer funding the contamination response should “account for the full construction improvement costs for the provision of a permanent [filtering] system, including operation and maintenance life-cycle costs for the water system for the duration of time where the well will be impacted by PFOA and/or PFOS.”
According to state environmental officials, the source of the PFOA contamination was the former Warren Wire/General Cable factory building, about 1,000 feet from the water district’s well. The district well was drilled in the 1990s, before perfluorooctanoic acid was recognized as a threat to groundwater.
Unicorn Management was hired by American Premier Underwriters, which assumed environmental liability for the property under its current owner, Mack Molding. The site now is used primarily as a warehouse.
Read the story on VTDigger here: Long-term filtering may be only solution to Pownal pollution.