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.
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.
Residents of Hoosick Falls are reporting that they have not received some water deliveries since Saint Gobain took over the responsibility to distribute bottled water to those in need.
Some residents are furious as to why they were cut off from a water delivery list.
“My question is who made the judgment in the first place that I was not to receive any more water and why?” a Hoosick Falls resident said.
The church organization, HACA, sent out a letter during the week of September 4th notifying people that Saint Gobain would be taking over water distribution as the consent order between State DEC and the company had declared.
One resident claims that she has not received any water in three weeks. Another Hoosick Falls woman, who recently suffered two strokes and has arthritis, also stopped receiving water deliveries.
The consent order states that Saint Gobain will provide bottled water to the elderly and ill residents of Hoosick Falls after a request has been approved by the village clerk.
Residents are reluctant to provide medical information to justify receiving water deliveries as it invades their privacy.
Mayor Dave Borge addressed the issue in a statement on Friday:
“Some were removed from the delivery list because it was determined that they were not elderly or infirm. As far as I know, the Village received one complaint from a resident regarding the water deliveries. Once the Village became aware of the individual’s interest in continuing to receive water deliveries, she was placed back on the delivery list.”
This assessment would make way for the development of a public health action plan to address the water contamination in the town caused by PFOA exposure at the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics site.
In a letter to the CDC, Gillibrand stated how, “studies indicate that exposure to PFOA over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, liver damage, low birth weight, immune system impacts, and other serious health effects.”
She stressed the importance of more research in order to better understand these health effects and to, ” clarify and expand upon current research findings.”
The EPA announced its proposal today to add the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics site in Hoosick Falls, N.Y. to its Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites.
The Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility is located at 14 McCaffrey Street and its groundwater has been contaminated with Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Trichloroethylene. The village’s public water supply has also been found to be contaminated with PFOA.
“By placing this site on the federal Superfund list, the EPA will continue to work hard to address the contamination at the source, and hold the polluters accountable for the full cost of cleanup,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator.
In January 2016, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation added the Saint-Gobain site to the state’s Superfund list and nominated the site for inclusion in the federal Superfund list.
In April 2016, the EPA installed groundwater monitoring wells near the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility.
In early May 2016, the EPA conducted groundwater sampling at and around the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility.
In mid-May, the EPA conducted drinking water sampling at drinking water wells used by the Village of Hoosick Falls.
After testing in Hoosick Falls, the EPA determined that inclusion in the federal Superfund program was an effective course of action to address the contamination.
After this proposal of inclusion to the National Priorities List, a 60-day comment period will begin in which the EPA will accept public comments until November 10th.
Following the comment period, designation to the National Priorities List will make the site eligible for funds to conduct long-term cleanup.
The Superfund program allows the EPA to search for the polluters legally responsible for contaminating a site and holds them accountable for cleanup costs, rather than pushing costs onto taxpayers.
A State Senate committee held a daylong hearing in Hoosick Falls this week to address the PFOA water contamination issue that has been affecting residents for months.
Michael Hickey, a Hoosick Falls lifelong resident who was one of the first to bring attention to the town’s contaminated water, spoke at the hearing about how he discovered a connection between the death of his father from kidney cancer and the toxic chemical Teflon.
Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
“All I typed in was Teflon and cancer, because that’s what was in the factory that was in Hoosick Falls where my father worked,” stated Hickey at the Tuesday hearing.
Although it only took Hickey “about five minutes,” it took government officials much longer to notice the contamination, or to take action.
Only in recent months has the gravity of this issue come to light as researchers found that the town’s public water supply was tainted with high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which is used in several products as well as in the production of Teflon.
State officials have identified the source of the contamination as the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant.
Several nearby towns in New York as well as in Vermont have also reported high levels of PFOA since then.
Dr. Marcus Martinez, a local physician, had also testified alongside Hickey stating he had long noted what he believed to be unusually high rates of cancer in the village. He said that he and Hickey had brought their concerns, as well as test results, to the attention of village and state officials in 2014, but had been disappointed by a lack of action.
“I do believe our citizens were advised incorrectly to consume water that was unsafe for at least for 12 months,” Dr. Martinez said.