Faculty News, CAPA

Bond Joins Community Voices at EPA Summit on PFOA

Hundreds of residents gathered in Exeter, NH, for a two-day summit on perfluorinated compounds like PFOA. Hosted by the EPA, this inaugural summit brought together impacted communities, state agencies, and EPA leaders to discuss the ongoing response to PFOA contamination in New England and beyond.

David Bond

Associate Director of CAPA David Bond was given the stage to share Bennington's experience with PFOA contamination, including how Bennington College opened the doors of its science classroom to this nearby environmental problem. He presented along with representatives from other communities roiled in PFOA contamination, including Barnstable, MA; Westfield, MA; Dover, NH; and Merrimack, NH.

Bond’s comments drew praise from stage agencies, advocacy groups, and community members, and were quoted in Politico, The Bennington Banner, and VT Digger.

“It is entirely appropriate and thoroughly disappointing that Bennington and Merrimack share this stage tonight,” said Bond, noting when Vermont started scrutinizing the ChemFab factory over complaints of air pollution in Bennington in the early 2000s, the company simply moved to Merrimack, NH. “If we had been able to confront the problems of ChemFab in Bennington, we wouldn’t have the problem in Merrimack today.”

Bond bemoaned the “whack-a-mole” philosophy of toxic governance in the US, where polluting companies always seem one step ahead of environmental regulators.

“Companies like ChemFab used to move across state borders to avoid environmental oversight. Today, they simply tinker with their recipe,” said Bond, noting Gen-X and the hundreds of new perfluorinated compounds in use across the US.

PFOA was phased out of US manufacturing in 2015 under pressure from the EPA. With chemical compositions that slightly differ from PFOA, these new perfluorinated compounds evade regulations but likely share the risk profile of PFOA.

“This is unacceptable. We need the EPA to regulate these toxins as a family,” said Bond, who also discussed the recently published ATSRD toxicological review of PFOA and PFOS, which found current health guidance levels for perfluorinated compounds in drinking water may be too high. Currently, the EPA level is 70 parts per trillion (ppt) and VT is 20 ppt. The ATSRD report recommends 11 ppt. “The trend line is clear: every new study of these chemicals lowers the acceptable level in our drinking water.”

These guidance levels play a crucial role within communities impacted by PFOA contamination: when PFOA is detected in drinking water, many state agencies use these guidance levels as the cutoff to determine who gets a filtration system and who does not.

Bond described how the new ATSRD guidance level translates into over 50 homes in the Bennington area that might now be told the PFOA levels in their drinking water are harmful.

“In 2016, we told these families that their water was fine and they did not get filtration systems. Are we are going to go back to them two years later and tell them that same water is now considered toxic?” Bond asked EPA Administrators. “Let’s just cut through the nonsense: if these chemicals are in your water, you get a filter.”

This point drew what New Hampshire Public Radio described as the “first applause line of the night.”

Bond also contrasted New York’s response in Hoosick Falls to Vermont’s response in Bennington.

“While NY State fumbled the issue – delaying a response long after the evidence demanded it, confusing residents with an uneven response to PFOA, and collecting tremendous amount of environmental and health data from residents but not disclosing what they’ve found –Vermont has been present, transparent, and effective since day one. Vermont’s response is a model for the rest of the nation,” said Bond.