Understanding PFOA in Our Water (APA2158.01)

David Bond, Janet Foley, Tim Schroeder

In 2014, the chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid (C8 or PFOA) was discovered in the drinking water in the Village of Hoosick Falls, NY. As concern over this groundwater contamination grew, other communities began testing their water for PFOA. As of March 2016, PFOA has been discovered in the groundwater of Petersburgh, NY, Merrimack, NH, and in North Bennington, VT (the public water system of North Bennington, where Bennington College gets its water, have tested free of PFOA). PFOA is a man-made chemical that is persistent, mobile, and bioaccumulative. Classified by the EPA as an “emerging contaminant,” PFOA has been correlated with a range of health problems. This course will investigate the social and physical aspects of this ongoing disaster, from how the regulation of chemicals in the US shaped the disaster to how the specific chemistry of PFOA guides its environmental and biological pathways to how the geological structure of an aquifer influences the distribution and direction of a groundwater contaminant plume. Students will gain formal training in environmental organic chemistry and toxicology, contaminant hydrogeology, and environmental policy. Students will also conduct field research on the water contamination in North Bennington and Hoosick Falls, learn how to collect water samples, interpret laboratory data, and use geospatial analysis techniques and technology to characterize a groundwater plume. Students are also expected to help faculty prepare presentations of the early findings of our research to citizens groups in North Bennington and Hoosick Falls. Students in this class will develop curricular materials that can be used in area public schools.

Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 2
T 4:10pm - 6:00pm (first seven weeks)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency:
This course is categorized as 2000, Advancement of Public Action, All courses, Chemistry, David Bond, Earth Science, Environment, First Seven Week, Janet Foley, Timothy Schroeder, Tuesday and/or Friday Afternoons, Two Credit, Updates.