Everyday People Speak Up

"Brian Phillips, an environmental scientist, collects water in North Bennnigton for testing. Last week [March 2016], five wells in North Bennington near the former Chemfab factory tested positive for the suspected carcinogen, PFOA." HOWARD WEISS-TISMAN / VPR

“Brian Phillips, an environmental scientist, collects water in North Bennnigton for testing. Last week [March 2016], five wells in North Bennington near the former Chemfab factory tested positive for the suspected carcinogen, PFOA.”
HOWARD WEISS-TISMAN / VPR

Howard Weiss-Tisman was hired by Vermont Public Radio in September 2015 after having worked for the Brattleboro Reformer for eleven years. Over the last month he has effectively followed the water crisis in North Bennington, Vermont and he attributes the contamination to defunct materials factory Chemfab.

Chemfab used to make fabrics and materials that have been distributed around the world. It made fabric for the Georgia Dome and the Carrier Dome on the Syracuse campus. It made the water-tight material by treating it with toxic chemicals, sending the fiberglass fabric through a twenty-foot oven that would bake it at 650 degrees Fahrenheit, sending smoke through tall stacks. The smoke sent PFOA into the air, and it seeped in the earth into the groundwater. The company was purchased by the French company Saint-Gobain in 2000. They closed the doors to the Chemfab plant in 2002, leaving the chemical plant’s grounds soiled in North Bennington.

I wonder how many years the groundwater had been contaminated before anyone noticed. PFOA is a synthetic chemical compound that is often used to manufacture telomere-based consumer products such as non-stick pan coatings. The chemical has been phased out of many products because it has been linked to cancer. The chemical is a silent killer, because it is not overnight, but over many years that cancer is contracted. The reason why we know that PFOA was found in the groundwater is because Carol Moore, a North Bennington resident stood up and asked questions. She heard of the PFOA outbreak in Hoosick Falls, New York, which was not far from her home in North Bennington. She called for a test in the water, and it came up positive. Lawmakers, including Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin have visited North Bennington, and are strategizing a plan to assess and remedy the damage caused by the defunct fabric plant.

Howard Weiss-Tisman interviewed Ms. Moore who explained that she had no intention of being an activist. She considered herself to be a normal everyday person with a full-time job. She was concerned about the water in her community. National attention has been brought to this small rural community because an everyday person decided to speak up. As citizens in our own communities we have the capacity to make tremendous changes by being aware of problems and speaking up.

By: Brian D. King

Works Cited

Weiss-Tisman, Howard. “Once The Pride Of North Bennington, Chemfab Made Fabrics Used Worldwide, And In Space.” Vermont Public Radio, 14 Mar. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

Weiss-Tisman, Howard. “North Bennington’s PFOA Water Testing Began Thanks To A Concerned Resident.” Vermont Public Radio, 28 Mar. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

See “State: Do Not Drink Well Water Near North Bennington Plant”

About the author: Farina King

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