BREAKING: Rising Tide Vermont, Addison County Residents, Stage Sit-In at Public Service Board Demanding a Halt to Pipeline Construction

RT VT 34Montpelier, VT – Landowners and climate activists opposed to the Vermont Fracked Gas pipeline staged a sit-in today at the Department of Public Service, calling on the agency and the Public Service Board to suspend pipeline construction until they address possible widespread hazardous soil and water contamination along the proposed pipeline route.

“We’re here to let the Department and the Board know that without adequate intervention, pipeline construction threatens to disturb soils contaminated with hazardous chemicals,” said Jonathan Shapiro, of Rising Tide Vermont.

The demonstrators, including several Monkton landowners who live along the proposed pipeline route, are concerned that pipeline construction along the VELCO corridor could expose more people and water to contaminated soils.

Dangerous levels of Pentachlorophenol (PCP), a wood preservative used to treat utility poles, showed up in a Monkton resident’s drinking water last month. [1] The contamination was caused by VELCO maintenance work in preparation for the proposed fracked gas pipeline.

PCP is classified as a probable human carcinogen. [2] Short-term exposure can cause ear, eye and respiratory irritation, and lead to liver and kidney complications.  A bill to regulate treated utility poles was introduced in the Vermont legislature in 2012, due to previous cases of PCP contamination in the state. [3]

Over twenty-five Monkton residents also plan to file a motion with the Board today, requesting that they investigate the issue of contamination. Monkton resident Selena Peyser submitted a similar request to the Board on May 7. The Board has not responded to this request at all.

“I’m deeply concerned that pipeline construction could expose toxic soil, and the state agencies charged with protecting the public from this sort of thing are sweeping our concerns under the rug,” said Maren Vasatka, a Monkton homeowner. Vasatka is currently embroiled in a battle with Vermont Gas over an easement to run the pipeline through her property, along the VELCO corridor.

Over 20 miles of the pipeline route runs alongside the VELCO corridor in Chittenden and Addison counties. The recent contamination incident in Monkton raises concerns about contamination along the rest of the corridor.

“I can’t imagine why the Public Service Board, Department of Public Service and Vermont Gas would want to risk poisoning water instead of taking time to perform adequate testing,” Vasatka said.

The demonstrators, who planned to maintain the sit-in until the Board or the Department of Public Service agreed to pursue the matter, drew connections to larger issues of soil and water contamination caused by fracking.

“From the frackfields of Alberta to the farmland of Addison County, fracking infrastructure is threatening our land, water and our health,” Shapiro said.

Rising Tide urged supporters to attend the upcoming public hearing on Phase 2 of the pipeline this Thursday, June 12, at 7 pm at Middlebury High School.

[1] Tainted water leads to Addison County concern. http://www.mychamplainvalley.com/story/d/story/tainted-water-leads-to-addison-county-concern/15072/GBXJ8B5ir0-vrcu2GrSZKg

[2] US EPA. Registration Eligibility Decision for Pentachlorophenol. http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/pentachlorophenol_red.pdf

[3] Vermont Department of Health (2009). Pentachlorophenol contamination of private drinking water from treated utility poles

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