N.H.'s Water Quality Activists Hail Vermont Settlement

Jul 26, 2017

Bennington resident John Camelio has been using carbon filters for a year. This settlement will likely fund a public water connection for his home.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / Vermont Public Radio

A settlement between the state of Vermont and the plastics company Saint Gobain is catching the attention of some in New Hampshire who say the settlement should change the conversation around water quality here.

Saint Gobain will now spend $20 million dollars to connect many of Bennington’s contaminated well-owners with public water. According to VPR, the company has also dropped its pending lawsuit over the state of Vermont's drinking water standard for perfluorichemicals. Vermont's standard is more strict than the federal government's.

Saint-Gobain Drops Its Lawsuit Over Vermont's Drinking Water Standard

Proponents of stricter water regulations in New Hampshire are calling the settlement proof that state regulators can come down hard on polluters and come out on top.

“I think this shows that sticking to your goals really can turn out in a good way,” said New Hampshire State Representative Mindi Messmer.  “I really think they did the right thing by protecting their people.”

But New Hampshire regulators say the state has done even better than Vermont without resorting to legal action.

“We’ve already accomplished what the Vermont announcement today sets the groundwork to undertake,” said Jim Martin, public information officer for the Department of Environmental Resources.

To date, more than 260 southern New Hampshire homes have been connected to public water, with Saint-Gobain’s picking up the tab.

But according to Messmer, that assessment misses a key point. In Vermont, Saint Gobain will have to remedy even homes in the state with small amounts of the contaminant – as low as 20 parts per trillion, the state's more protective threshold. In New Hampshire, only homes over 70 parts per trillion are eligible for remedies.

A year ago, New Hampshire adopted the federal government's ambient groundwater quality standard for the contaminants, while Vermont adopted a more stringent threshold.