test sample water

Taconic Mountain Student Water Conference: PFOA

Dates | May 19–20, 2017
Location | Bennington College
Contact | capa@bennington.edu

This conference, co-convened by David Bond (Bennington College) and Ken Facin (Hoosick Falls Central School District) and hosted by Bennington College, introduced advanced high school students from our region to the problems and opportunities that define our water resources. Our inaugural conference focused on PFOA.

In addition to a keynote and hands-on research training, there were several breakout sessions focused on the following themes:

  • The chemical properties of PFOA
  • The environmental and biological pathways of PFOA
  • How journalists have engaged PFOA
  • The role of environmental policy and protections around PFOA contamination
  • Advocacy and citizenship around water resources today

Bennington College and Hoosick Falls Central School District have longstanding commitments to engaging education with real world concerns. This conference brought such commitments into a more deliberate and collaborative conversation with educators and students across our region. Bringing together leading national voices on PFOA with advanced science students and teachers from 10 local high schools in Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York, this conference demonstrated the vital linkages between learning and citizenship in our contemporary world.

This conference is a sort of culmination of what we have been working on for many years to see information about this chemical getting out in communities like this, in a free exchange of the facts, of what is known and what isn't known."
Attorney Robert Bilott

Attorney Robert Bilott gave the keynote address on Saturday afternoon. As a leading voice on PFOA, Bilott’s legal work has been instrumental in revealing corporate malfeasance around the manufacture of PFOA and advancing new scientific understandings of the health risks of PFOA. In 2016, the New York Times Magazine profiled Bilott’s work on PFOA in West Virginia and Ohio.

The Bennington Banner talked to conference convener, David Bond, who noted, "We brought together impacted communities in New York and Vermont—communities that have rarely had the opportunity to talk to one another—to summarize what we've learned about PFOA contamination, spark new points of collaboration, and advance more equitable paths forward PFOA is not just a Hoosick Falls problem; it's not just a Petersburgh problem, and it's not just a North Bennington problem. It's a regional problem. And it's time we begin thinking and acting together."

The conference was also covered by a number of local outlets, including WAMC on May 19 and May 22.


Friday's events were aimed toward visiting local high schools; Saturday's events were free and open to the public

Saturday, May 20

9:30 AM  |  Welcome  |  CAPA Symposium

   [Video of conversation]

10:00 AM  |  Impacted Communities: Residents  |  CAPA Symposium

  • Jim Goodine (North Bennington)
  • Michael Hickey (Hoosick Falls)
  • Emily Marpe (Petersburg)

   [Video of conversation]

11:00 AM  |  Impacted Communities: Local Government  |  CAPA Symposium

  • Rob Allen (Mayor, Hoosick Falls)
  • Stuart Hurd (Town Manager, Bennington)
  • Matthew Patterson (Chair of Village Trustees, North Bennington)
  • Alan Webster (Town Board, Petersburg)

   [Video of conversation]

12:00 PM  |  Lunch

1:00 PM  |  Executive Roundtable: Environmental Governance and PFOA  |  Tishman Lecture Hall

  • Judith Enck (Visiting Scholar at Haub School of Law, Pace University and former EPA Administrator Region Two)
  • Alyssa Schuren (Partner at the Management Center and former Commissioner of Vermont DEC)

   [Video of conversation]

2:30 PM  |  Keynote Lecture  |  Tishman Lecture Hall

  • "Investigating and Addressing Human Health Threats from PFOA in Drinking Water: Legal Challenges" – Robert Bilott (Partner, Taft, Stettinius, and Hollister)