The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized members of the Vermont Aquifer Characterization Team in Vermont, including hydrogeologist David Boutt, geosciences, for their work to protect New England’s environment. They were among 24 recipients honored by EPA’s New England office at the 2020 Environmental Merit Awards virtual ceremony this week.
Specifically, Boutt and colleagues traced a plume contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in rock aquifers in the Bennington, Vermont, area that affected several hundred drinking water wells, surface water and sediment. EPA New England hailed their efforts – “This team of geologists, geochemists and hydrogeologists from state and federal government, universities and private business, provided crucial interpretations and data to help the community understand and address risks, develop sites for monitoring wells, and determine the scope of expansion of critical infrastructure to homes and businesses.”
The PFOA likely came from two former facilities that produced teflon-coated fiberglass fabrics. The acquifer characterization project improved the scientific foundation for policy and decision-making related to the PFA family of chemicals, referred to as PFA substances (PFAS). Boutt is an expert isotopic studies of groundwater. Isotopic signatures act as trace markers that can be followed over time and space as they percolate through hydrological systems.
The EPA announcement pointed out, “The physical model allowed the team to determine the potential avenues for groundwater and PFAS transport in the bedrock and aquifers. Findings about groundwater ages are proving critical in understanding contamination patterns and safeguarding clean drinking water for the community and families.”
EPA New England Administrator Dennis Deziel, said,“Initiatives led by individuals and groups like this years’ awardees have driven progress toward clean water and clean air, built community support for revitalization investments, sparked environmental innovation, reduced waste, and protected the public from exposure to harmful substances. EPA is always proud to recognize the honorees’ dedication, commitment to partnerships, and passion for success that has led to measurable change.”
Commissioner Peter Walkeof the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, added, “The award winners’ hard work has had a tremendous impact on Vermont’s environment and communities. It’s humbling to be able to honor their commitment to Vermont’s environment. Further, “the award going to the Aquifer Characterization Team symbolizes the significance of their work to determine the extent of PFAS contamination and protect area residents.”