March 25, 2016 | By Jess Mancini

PARKERSBURG – While Vermont officials are warning residents to stop drinking water at a second town where tests show C8 at a concentration over 0.02 parts per billion, West Virginia officials continue to follow the higher federal EPA short-term exposure guideline.

Water samples tested from another town in Vermont are showing C8 levels slightly above the state Department of Health’s 0.02 parts per billion advisory level and residents have been advised to stop drinking the water, according to an advisory issued by the governor of Vermont.

Pownal is about seven miles from the Chem Fab plant at Bennington and North Bennington, Vt., and about 17 miles from Hoosick Falls, N.Y., where the city is installing a carbon filter system to remove contamination from C8 used at the Saint-Gobain plastics plant. Saint-Gobain has agreed to install the system and has paid for bottled drinking water. At Pownal, media reports say the suspected source of the contamination is an old manufacturing plant where Teflon was used in wire coatings.

The test results from a municipal well in Pownal show levels of C8, also called PFOA, are 0.026 and 0.027, which are above the 0.02 ppb advisory level set by the Vermont Department of Health, Gov. Peter Shumlin said. Shumlin in the advisory earlier this week said C8 is a possible carcinogen.

C8 has been measured in water systems in the Mid-Ohio Valley where the substance was once used by DuPont to make Teflon at the Washington Works plant. The company, as a result of a class-action lawsuit filed by residents, installed carbon filters in six water systems, but not in Parkersburg and Vienna, where the concentrations found were below the 0.4 ppb advisory level set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Attorneys in the class action suit have asked the EPA to intervene, particularly in Vienna where the concentrations of C8 found in the water were 0.104 ppm to 0.116 ppm in five of eight wells.

Concentrations in Parkersburg, based on testing in September, were from 0.072 ppb to 0.013 ppb in three wells, non-quantifiable at two other wells and 0.031 ppb in the finished treated water.

Robert Bilott, an attorney in the C8 class action lawsuit, on Thursday sent another letter to Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and to Dr. Rahul Gupta, commissioner of the West Virginia Bureau of Health, asking for assistance in obtaining benefits for Parkersburg and Vienna. Bilott wrote to U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy earlier this month.

“To our knowledge, there is no biological reason why the men, women and children of Vienna and Parkersburg should be allowed to drink PFOA every day from their taps at concentrations that would entitle them to receive filtered or bottled water if they lived in another state, such as New York, New Jersey or Vermont,” Bilott said in the letter to Manchin, Capito and Gupta.

Manchin told The Parkersburg News and Sentinel this week he’ll contact McCarthy.

“This total lack of response from U.S. EPA and West Virginia DEP (and total refusal of the company responsible for the poisoning of the public water to pay for water cleanup and blood testing of affected residents) contrasts markedly with how the regulatory authorities and potentially responsible companies are handling and responding to similar contamination situations occurring right now in other states,” Bilott said.

DuPont did not have a comment, spokesman Dan Turner said.

Kelley Gillenwater, communications director with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, said the agency is in contact with the health department and the EPA, but the Bureau of Public Health has oversight on drinking water. The EPA may revise its provisional health advisory on short-term exposure this year, she said.

“The governor has confidence in (the health and environmental protection departments) to address any concerns,” Chris Stadelman, a spokesman for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, said in a statement.

The state of West Virginia works with the EPA to monitor C8, said Walter Ivey, director of Office of Environmental Health Services in the Bureau of Public Health. The bureau has been in contact with Vienna, Parkersburg and the EPA, and local systems are being proactive in monitoring PFOA, a component of C8, according to Ivey.

“West Virginia relies on the expertise of the EPA and our federal partners to provide guidance regarding health impacts to individuals pertaining to C8,” he said.

No enforcement power is available because C8 is not a regulated contaminant at this time, he said.

As for the health department using a lower health advisory concentration than the federal EPA, “West Virginia relies on EPA’s guidance to regulate the Safe Drinking Water Act,” he said.

The Department of Environmental Conservation in Vermont has advised affected residents to stop drinking the water. The agency is arranging the distribution of drinking water to residents served by the affected well. Mack Molding in Pownal, the suspected source of the contamination in Pownal, issued a statement that said while it did not cause the problem, it has agreed to help the state and provide bottled water to residents for the next two weeks while the state and federal officials develop a plan of action.

Agencies in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire are informing residents of the health risks from exposure of water contaminated with C8, he said. C8 has been linked to diseases in people, pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease and high cholesterol.

Shumlin in the advisory said C8 is an emerging containment and is not tested for in standard water tests or listed on a list of hazardous chemicals under federal law that require management.