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.
Earlier this month, the two companies that were held accountable for contaminating the water supply of Hoosick Falls with PFOA agreed to a $850,000 proposed settlement agreement.
The money paid by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell in the settlement will contribute to the costs of water sampling, flushing waterlines, repairing fire hydrants, engineering, legal services, public relations, and the losses incurred from reduced water and sewer usage.
Mayor David Borge stated that the agreement, “will ensure that village residents are not forced to bear the financial burden of paying for the village’s response to the PFOA crisis — a situation they did not create.”
The agreement will also reserve rights by the village for any “future potential liabilities related to PFOA releases associated with the companies’ former manufacturing facilities in the village. PFOA contamination that may have resulted from other locations, such as the village-owned landfill, are not covered by the new agreement.”
This settlement agreement is separate from the consent order between the two companies and the state Department of Environmental Conservation that is seeking to recoup costs of additional sampling and filtering, as well as cleanup of the state Superfund site.
After discovering that they may not receive grant money from a state agency, Hoosick Falls village officials must now seek other funding sources in order to expand the municipal water system.
According to Mayor David Borge, the proposed project to extend water and sewer to properties with PFOA-contaminated drinking wells will not be eligible for grants unless a new water municipality is formed.
In addition, the project’s Environmental Facilities Corporation ranking was not high enough to qualify it for no-interest loans or grants.
At a Village Board meeting held last week, Mayor Borge said that the village will work with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Kathleen Marchione to look for other sources of funding.
Last week, Rensselaer County legislators unanimously approved a resolution in hopes of speeding up the cleanup process of the site identified as the source of PFOA contamination in Hoosick Falls.
The resolution was suggested by the Legislature’s chairman, Stan Brownell.
Along with including the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics’ McCaffrey Street plant on the federal Superfund National Priorities List, the resolution also asks for adequate funding and a proper timeline for the cleanup.
PFOA, which has been linked to numerous chronic health risks, has been affecting Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh residents for over a year.
“This is an important property in Hoosick Falls, and inclusion on the federal National Priorities List will help restore the property and resolve some of the concerns residents have regarding the PFOA situation,” said Brownell. “We also have asked the federal government to provide a specific timeline for this important remediation work. A clear and direct line of communication with residents on this project, and continued progress, are needed to restore confidence and trust.”
The Rensselaer County Legislature also recently approved a resolution to establish a website dedicated to informing residents about the cleanup project.
Taconic Inc., a local manufacturer, has officially claimed responsibility for the PFOA water contamination in the public and private town water supply of Petersburgh, New York.
A news release from Taconic stated that the company has voluntarily entered into a consent order with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation in order to address the PFOA water contamination surrounding its plant on Coon Brook Road.
“Taconic remains committed to continued cooperation with the [DEC and] the town of Petersburgh, as well as its partnership with Rensselaer County,” the release reads.
Company officials say that Taconic has already taken steps to address the PFOA contamination by installing treatment systems for 65 homes and businesses in Petersburgh, supplying bottled waters for town residents, and working on a treatment system for the town’s municipal water system.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Walter Mugdan spoke to Hoosick Falls residents for two hours last week, answering questions and explaining the Federal Superfund program as the agency considers the village for Superfund status.
Mugdan, Director of the EPA Region 2’s Emergency and Remedial Response Division, stated how the factory linked to the area’s PFOA contamination is being considered for the Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites.
PFOA is used to make Teflon, which was used at the village’s Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics factory and is considered the source of the contamination.
If placed on the Superfund list, Hoosick Falls would be a part of 1,700 high-priority cleanups.
In January, New York State gave Superfund status to Saint-Gobain’s McCaffrey Street factory. According to Assistant Division Director for the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Environmental Remediation, Michael Ryan, the state would have additional options to take action against Saint-Gobain if the federal government also granted Superfund status.
“So right now we’re working cooperatively with the potentially responsible parties towards the investigation and cleanup. Should there be any hesitation on their part, if the site is listed on the NPL, EPA will be there with their resources, their legal resources to help back us up,” said Ryan.
A year since the contamination was widely announced to the public and more than two years since elevated PFOA levels were first detected, village Mayor David Borge said many unanswered questions were answered by Walter Mugdan last week.
A 60-day comment period on the proposal to add Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics to the Superfund National Priorities List closes November 8th.