Institutional News

Messages to the College Community Regarding PFOA

Bennington College barn

A collection of updates to the community regarding North Bennington water supply.

April 1, 2016: Update on the Results of Surface Water Tests for PFOA

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin released the results of tests for the presence of PFOA in Bennington-area waterways, including the pond on Bennington College's campus. While Bennington College's pond is not used for swimming, fishing, or other in-water recreation, the pond sample showed PFOA concentrations of 79 parts per trillion. This level is well below what state officials consider to be safe for humans and wildlife in surface water. It is also important to note that the College's drinking water is provided by the municipal water source, which has tested clean of PFOA. The state is in the process of conducting soil testing. We will share that information when we receive it. The College will continue to monitor the situation closely.

 

March 16, 2016: President Silver’s Update on North Bennington Water Situation

We wanted to share news of the North Bennington private well-water situation, which many of you may have heard about in the media.

The New York Times ran a story yesterday on the PFOA found in some private wells in North Bennington and other communities in the Northeast. Importantly, the municipal water supplies for Bennington and North Bennington (the source of water for the entire Bennington College campus and all its off-campus properties) have tested clean; these findings have been confirmed by independent labs testing multiple samples.

The state of Vermont's response has been remarkably rapid and transparent. The Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has been in North Bennington every week, and the Governor was on campus last week to meet with local community members. He reiterated his commitment to aggressively addressing this situation. It is also worth noting that the state of Vermont's standards for water purity are very strict and exceed the federal guidelines.

While not directly affected, the College is committed to providing the community with multiple levels of support, including its intellectual resources. Our faculty experts are helping people locally and farther afield understand what is known and what questions to ask about PFOA as this issue becomes relevant to communities across the nation, and the College is hosting public meetings for the community. Last week, the National Science Foundation awarded the College a Rapid Response grant of $90,000 for several faculty members to study PFOA. The grant enables the College to offer a course this spring and fall to students and community members, and for our research to inform affected communities throughout the country. In addition, we continue to field inquiries from local and national media outlets following the announcement of the NSF grant; faculty members David Bond, Janet Foley, Tim Schroeder, and Susan Sgorbati have been enormously responsive and informative as this situation has unfolded.

 

Feb 25, 2016: President Silver's Update on North Bennington Water Supply

 

Governor Shumlin reported today on recent testing for potential water contamination in North Bennington: “The public water supply has been tested and is not affected.” The public water supply is the water source for the entire Bennington College campus.

However, the governor also reported that tests of some commercial and individual household wells in the area do show varying levels of the potentially harmful chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has also been found in Hoosick Falls, NY.

While this situation does not affect the campus directly, we have arranged transportation to two community meetings announced by the governor. Representatives from the Department of Environmental Conservation will be on hand at these meeting to answer questions. To sign up for the shuttle, please contact Austin Bevin in Student Life.

  • Friday, February 26, at 4 pm at the North Bennington Firehouse
  • Monday, February 29, at 6 pm at the Bennington Fire Facility (Bennington Town Meeting)

In addition, in response to the Hoosick Falls water crisis, faculty are developing a pop-up course for later in the term.

We are following the conversation and developments closely and will continue to update the campus community. For more information, please call 802-249-5324 to speak with Vermont state officials.