RUTLAND, Vt. (NEWS10) – Residents of Bennington and North Bennington have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company that Vermont officials have blamed for PFOA contamination in their drinking water.
The suit filed Friday in Rutland federal court accuses Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics of negligence in the handling and disposal of the suspected carcinogen perflurooctanoic acid.
Patrick Bernal, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, says Saint-Gobain knew or should have known that its use of PFOA in the manufacturing process and its eventual disposal was potentially hazardous to the environment.
Saint Gobain said Tuesday in a statement:
We understand that a lawsuit has been filed in the State of Vermont. We are evaluating the claims, and we respect the right of individuals to pursue their claims in a court of law. Saint-Gobain has acted quickly and openly since learning 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. We will continue to work cooperatively with the State to address concerns over the drinking water. Our priority has been and continues to be ensuring the residents of North Bennington have clean drinking water.”
Steve Bennett is one of the main plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit and lives and runs a small business in North Bennington. His private well was one of the many wells in the area that tested positive for PFOA. He and his family stopped using the water almost immediately
He makes maple syrup and was concerned the ground water was contaminated too.
“Everything that I made this year after we found out obviously we put on hold because we didn’t know whether or not it was going to be any good or not,” said Bennett
The groundwater tests came back and luckily showed no signs of PFOA, but Bennett is worried he and his family could feel the effects of contaminated well water in other ways.
He says he’s worried about the value of his property, a concern echoed by many other parties to the lawsuit.
“I don’t know what the damage is going to be to the property values,” said Bennett. “We’re going to be paying taxes on a property that we may not be able to sell at some point.”
Bennett says almost all of his neighbors’ private wells tested positive.
“There’s a stigma that’s going to be attached to it no matter what you do,” said Bennett.
The lawsuit seeks more than $5 million in damages for property value losses and general inconvenience to area residents. The lawsuit also seeks to connect Bennington and North Bennington residents to municipal water, which runs less than two miles from Bennett’s home.
Bennett’s not sure if that’s enough. He says he doesn’t think you can put a price tag on the suffering he and his neighbors have had to go through because of the PFOA contamination.
While the lawsuit pends, Bennett says he’s looking forward to getting back to business as usual. He’s going to put his garden in this year. But he’s not sure he’ll drink the water from his private well ever again.
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