In 2016, eight residents of Bennington and North Bennington sued Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation (“Saint-Gobain”) for the presence of a chemical called Perfluorooctanoic Acid (“PFOA”) on and under their properties and, for those with private wells, in their drinking water. These eight residents (the “Representative Plaintiffs”) brought this suit on behalf of all residents that have been similarly harmed by the toxic chemical, PFOA, which they claim Saint-Gobain released into the atmosphere over the years it operated in Vermont. Once released, they claim the PFOA contaminated the soil and many private wells in the area. This type of lawsuit is called a “class action.”
For several decades, Saint-Gobain and its predecessor, Chemical Fabrics Corporation (“ChemFab”), manufactured coated fabric and other products, first in a plant in Bennington, and then in North Bennington. The company ceased its operations in Vermont in 2002. This lawsuit is about whether Saint-Gobain/ChemFab should be held responsible for releasing PFOA into the environment, and whether those releases contaminated the soil and groundwater in and around Bennington and North Bennington, in the area shown on the Area of Impact map created by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”). You can view the Area of Impact map on this website.
On August 23, 2019, Judge Crawford, of the Federal District Court of Vermont, certified two classes of residents represented in this lawsuit: one is called the “Property Class,” consisting of all residents who own homes in the area impacted by PFOA; the other is called the “Exposure Class,” consisting of all residents in the Property Class who consumed PFOA-contaminated water from their residential wells, and now have elevated levels of PFOA in their blood, above the national background level of 2.1 μ/l. If your residence is within the Area of Impact shown on the map, you are likely a member of the Property Class; if your residence was supplied by a private well contaminated with PFOA, and you have above national background levels of PFOA in your blood, you are likely a member of the Exposure Class.
Plaintiffs claim that Saint-Gobain/ChemFab is responsible for the PFOA contamination in the Area of Impact. Plaintiffs specifically claim that Saint-Gobain was negligent in releasing PFOA into the air from its North Bennington and Bennington plants, and that these releases constitute a nuisance, a trespass, and violate Vermont’s Groundwater Protection Act. Plaintiffs therefore seek damages for all members of the Property Class, including compensation for their diminished property values, their upset, annoyance, fears and inconvenience caused by living with the PFOA contamination, and their lost use and enjoyment of their properties as a result of the PFOA contamination.
Plaintiffs further claim that members of the Exposure Class, who drank PFOA-contaminated water from their wells and who now have PFOA in their blood at levels higher than the general public, are at greater risk of developing future illnesses associated with PFOA exposure. Therefore, this lawsuit also seeks a medical monitoring program paid for by Saint-Gobain, to allow Exposure Class members to be seen annually by doctors experienced in environmental medicine, in order to detect the earliest signs or symptoms of any diseases associated with PFOA exposure, and to allow them to seek effective medical treatment.
In 2017, Vermont classified PFOA as a hazardous material, and the State has set a safe drinking water limit for PFOA of 20 parts per trillion (ppt).
More information on the potential health and environmental effects of PFOA can be found at the Vermont DEC’s website at https://dec.vermont.gov/pfas.
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