The village of Hoosick Falls elected a new mayor in an unopposed election on Tuesday, who will soon inherit the responsibility of the ongoing PFOA water contamination cleanup.
Mayor-elect Rob Allen is a music teacher at the Hoosick Falls Central School District and is known to have strongly opposed the proposed settlement agreement that was previously on the table.
“The village needs to be protected and I didn’t feel like that settlement was going to protect the village,” stated Allen. “I mean it basically said we could have been sued coming out of that settlement,” he said.
Before taking any action, Allen wants to talk to the residents of Hoosick Falls who have been affected by the contamination, as well as lawyers and trustee board members, to learn as much as possible.
“This has to be about making sure remediation is done the right and proper way, and hopefully getting us a new water source,” Allen said.
Rob Allen will officially take the place of outgoing mayor David Borge on April 3rd.
Last week, the Hoosick Falls Village Board postponed its vote on the proposed settlement of $1.04 million offered by Saint-Gobain and Honeywell over the PFOA contamination of the village’s water supply.
Village officials approved the motion to table with a vote of 6-1, with Mayor David Borge opposing it due to his argument that the town is facing “real financial issues” without the settlement money.
After the vote, Mayor Borge stated that, “Someone is going to give us a check for $1 million, that is not going away…There are 1,900 people in this community that pay taxes. They were not all here tonight…We have a responsibility to look out for everyone in the village, both present and in the future, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Although the settlement would cover Hoosick Falls’ expenses relating to the contamination, it would prevent the village from bringing any future claims against Saint-Gobain and Honeywell.
Judith Enck, a Hoosick Falls community member and former administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, opposed the settlement offer stating, “This is a really good deal for St. Gobain and a really good deal for Honeywell, but this not the quality document you should be signing on behalf of the residents of Hoosick Falls.”
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International, the two companies held responsible for the PFOA water contamination in Hoosick Falls, offered a revised settlement this week that would pay over $1 million to the village.
This is an increase from the previous offer of $850,000 that was met with a great deal of criticism from village residents at a public meeting held to discuss the agreement last month.
The new agreement calls for Saint-Gobain and Honeywell to pay the village $1.045 million for the expenses incurred from the PFOA water contamination.
With this settlement agreement, the village would have to agree to not filing claims against the two companies for damages to the existing municipal water system.
A press release issued Wednesday states, “the agreement has been revised to ensure the village retains its right to pursue any other claims.”
These other claims could be for costs associated to, “new wells and related equipment, alternative water sources extensions or additions to the existing municipal water supply system, pollution from contaminants other than PFOA, and diminished property values.”
The proposed settlement will be considered at a board meeting being held today at 6 p.m. at the Hoosick Falls Armory.
Hoosick Falls Mayor, David Borge, recently stated that he is in agreement with the New York State Health Commissioner’s view that the village now has some of the cleanest drinking water in the country.
On Tuesday, Mayor Borge stated, “I agree with the Commissioner’s statement and we have had clean water since March of 2016.”
Since the discovery of dangerously high levels of PFOA in the village’s water supply in 2014, Hoosick Falls and New York State officials have been working to ensure clean drinking water for residents.
Hoosick Falls’ municipal water system was completely transitioned to the new full-capacity carbon filtration system earlier this month. This new system facilitates for higher volume treatment of water, ensuring the village access to clean drinking water.
“The full capacity GAC system replaced the temporary system and we continue to have non-detect sampling results. Municipal water users can be confident of the effectiveness of the technology and the results,” said Mayor Borge.
In a meeting held this week, Honeywell representatives informed residents that there may be another form of pollutant leaking into their drinking water, apart from PFOA chemicals they are already exposed to.
Under a state consent order, Honeywell is conducting an investigation into the detection of chemicals at the site of the company’s former building in Hoosick Falls.
The type of pollutant in question is called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Prior to this investigation, chemicals known as TCE and 111-TCA were found at the John Street Honeywell location.
Honeywell is now asking permission from Hoosick Falls residents to test their homes for VOCs, as directed by the consent order with the New York State Department of Health and Environmental Conservation.
39 properties surrounding the area of Honeywell’s former facility will be investigated, according to the company’s Global Remediation Director, John Morris.
At the meeting held this week, Morris explained to town residents that VOCs enter homes through vapors released from contaminated groundwater. Basements and living rooms will be tested in the specified homes.
TCE is a known carcinogen, according to the Department of Health. It can affect the central nervous system, liver, kidneys, reproductive and immune systems, and may also cause birth defects.
In a 39 page decision released today, United States District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn of the Northern District of New York denied the motion filed by defendants Saint Gobain and Honeywell seeking to dismiss the consolidated Hoosick Falls water contamination class action filed on behalf of village residents.
The Court held that plaintiffs had properly stated valid legal claims for negligence, trespass and nuisance due to the PFOA contamination of the drinking water in Hoosick Falls allegedly caused by the defendants.
The defendants made the argument that contaminating a resident’s drinking water does not give rise to a valid claim because the water is not owned by the resident but by the State of New York. This argument was rejected by the Court in the today’s decision.
The Court also held that plaintiffs’ claims to establish a medical monitoring program for the residents of Hoosick Falls to facilitate early diagnosis and treatment of diseases related to PFOA exposure could proceed because the residents had properly alleged an injury to both person and property.
The Court did grant one portion of defendants’ motion dismissing nuisance claims brought on behalf of the residents who obtained their water from the public water supply, holding that these residents could not bring a private nuisance claim.
The village of Hoosick Falls is in the process of finalizing a controversial settlement with the two companies that are to blame for the pollution of their water supply, despite villagers’ concerns with specific sections of the agreement.
A summary was posted on the village’s website last week that many felt casted aside the community’s concerns with the agreement.
The agreement will reimburse the lost revenues from the pollution of the water supply. However, there is a section in the agreement which will prevent the village from being able to sue the two companies at fault for the pollution if future contamination occurs from the existing groundwater wells they own. The villagers of Hoosick Falls believe this section should not be included in the agreement.
The village states that if there is future contamination, the state Department of Environmental Conservation can take action against the companies responsible for the pollution, but the villagers are not satisfied with this answer.
The vote on the agreement was initially set to have taken place last month, but was postponed due to the high volume of villagers’ concerns.
A meeting was set on January 12th to help resolve those concerns, but resulted in no success and Hoosick Falls’ residents felt their concerns were not taken into consideration for that section of the agreement.
The villagers will be noticed if a vote is scheduled or if amendments to the agreement are taking place.
Hoosick Falls is looking into a farm along the Hoosic River located about a mile south of the village’s water treatment plant as an alternate water supply after the PFOA water contamination.
The farmland is owned by Jeffrey Wysocki, Hoosick town Councilman, and is located off Route 22 across from the central school district building.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation drilled a test well at the site and found that the underground water supply in the area is free of PFOA.
The state will begin installing a larger well line in two weeks to test the strength of the underground aquifer and to verify that it would be able to supply 500,000 gallons per day, which is the village’s water usage requirement. In addition, it will also re-test the water for any contamination.
The DEC has been leading the search for an alternate water supply since last February.
Sean C. Mahar from the DEC stated, “Our investigation has been thorough and accomplished a lot in a relatively short period of time…We have a very promising location.”
The next step will include Saint-Gobain and Honeywell to conduct studies that would rank and provide cost estimates of all the alternate water supply options. The proposals will be introduced in community hearings allowing for public input.
An agreement with Saint Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International, the two companies being held accountable for the PFOA water contamination in Hoosick Falls, is being considered by the village board.
The agreement, which is estimated to cost the two companies $850 thousand, will reimburse the village of Hoosick Falls for the losses it incurred from decreased water and sewer revenues, in addition to the costs of flushing water pipes.
The village board will consider the agreement at a meeting being held today at 6 p.m. at the Hoosick Falls Senior Center.
Learn more about the proposed agreement on the Hoosick Falls Water Contamination website here.