The water supply of Hoosick Falls, NY, Bennington’s western neighbor, has been contaminated with Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) by past industrial activity. PFOA is an “emerging contaminant” that is 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 this 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. This class will also conduct field research on the water contamination in Hoosick Falls. Students will 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 Hoosick Falls. Students in this class will be expected to help develop curricular materials that can be used in area public schools. While there are no pre-requisites, permission of one of the instructors is required to enroll.
This module takes place during the second and third module blocks.