By Katy Savage
CLARENDON — The state is testing 20 private and public water wells near the Rutland airport after finding five wells were contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals.
“Our hope is that that this set of sampling will finally define the degree and extent of impact of the water supplies,” said Matt Moran, an environmental program manager for the Department of Environmental Conservation.
It’s unclear what is causing the contamination. The state has sampled 35 bedrock wells and one spring in and around the airport. Studies found perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFAS) in 17 of those water supplies. Five samples exceeded the Vermont Department of Health Drinking Health Advisory.
PFAS, manmade chemicals found in products like food packaging, can effect the immune system, cause thyroid disruptions, cause tumors as well as increased cholesterol, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
All 10 or so businesses in the Rutland State Airport Industrial Park are on bottled water as the state is in the midst of designing a new treatment system, which is expected to cost around $200,000.
“We hope to start getting that system in place,” said Moran.
The Department of Environmental Conservation began testing water supplies in March after new mandates were issued this past winter following national reports that aqueous film-forming foams, used to extinguish fires and gasoline such as jet fuel, could be a source of chemical pollutants.
The foam is required to be available at certain airports. It’s available at both the Rutland State Airport and Burlington International Airport.
“That’s when we realized this one in Clarendon is a concern,” Moran said.
Moran isn’t sure how long the contamination has been in the drinking water.
“We do know foam has been used for at least a couple of decades there,” he said.
Three rounds of testing have been conducted in that area so far. An environmental study to better understand the pollutants is scheduled to begin June 25.
The state is receiving phone calls from people in that area, requesting that their water be sampled.
“As we’ve been getting further out from the airport the (pollutant) levels have been decreasing,” Moran said. “What’s foremost in my mind is understanding what the extent of contamination is in people’s water supplies.”