Cleanup of Hoosick Falls Contamination Site To Begin in Spring

Hoosick Falls Superfund SiteThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) announced this week that cleanup of the Hoosick Falls Superfund site, which has been central in the village’s PFOA water contamination, will begin this spring.

Saint-Gobain Corporation and Honeywell International, Inc., the two companies being held liable for the contamination, are responsible for the environmental cleanup work at the project site located at 14 McCaffrey Street in Hoosick Falls.

The environmental cleanup action will be performed as an Interim Remedial Measure (IRM) under New York’s State Superfund Program and the provisions of an Order on Consent established between the responsible parties and the NYSDEC.

“An IRM is a cleanup activity that may be taken to prevent, mitigate or remedy contamination attributed to a site prior to the full characterization of the nature and extent of contamination. The objective of this IRM is to prevent continued migration of onsite perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) from the McCaffrey Street project site toward the Village of Hoosick Falls’ municipal water supply wellfield,” the DEC said in a press release.

The IRM plans include the installation of Granular Activated Carbon filtration vessels that will treat extracted groundwater and remove PFOA contamination.

The cleanup process, which will be overseen by the NYSDEC and State Health Department, is said to begin as early as May. Site preparation work is estimated to begin in June and the final installation and testing of the remediation effort should take place this summer.

More details of the Interim Remedial Measure plans can be found here.


Editorial on EPA’s Decision of No PFOA Limits

The Times Union published the following editorial discussing the Environmental Protection Agency’s reported decision not to set limits on PFOA in drinking water.

What adjective best describes the Environmental Protection Agency’s apparent decision to set no limits on the chemicals that contaminated water supplies in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh?

 

We nominate “sickening,” which is literal, given that perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, and related chemicals are linked to diseases including cancer, thyroid disease, hypertension and weakened childhood immunity.

 

Sadly, though, the refusal to set PFOA limits for drinking water isn’t surprising. Again and again, President Donald Trump’s EPA has chosen not to protect Americans’ health and safety if doing so might inconvenience industry.

 

The consequences of such inaction are real and potentially devastating, as residents of Hoosick Falls know. In 2015, the Rensselaer County community was found to have high PFOA levels in its drinking water; similar contamination was later discovered in nearby Petersburgh.

 

The government response was distressingly lax. At least 14 months passed before Hoosick Falls residents were warned to stop drinking from the village’s contaminated wells. Residents remain skeptical that officials can be trusted on the issue. So the EPA needs to prove it is principled. Under Mr. Trump, it surely is not.

 

Anyone who doubts that should remember that the administration tried to block a federal report concluding that PFOAs are dangerous even at very low concentrations. A presidential aide warned the report would be “a public relations nightmare.”

 

For the chemical industry, maybe so. For citizens, though, truth matters more than corporate PR.

 

The refusal to set PFOA limits means the chemical will stay unregulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, meaning utilities won’t have to face federal requirements to test and remove the chemicals from public water supplies.

 

Upon reflection, maybe a better adjective would be “unconscionable.”

 

Thankfully, New York is preparing to follow the recommendations of the Drinking Water Quality Council, a panel formed in response to the Hoosick Falls crisis, and limit PFOA in the water supply to a maximum of 10 parts per trillion. Some environmental advocates say that’s still too lax, but at least it is better protection than other Americans are going to get.

 

If there’s good news here, it’s in Congress, where both Republicans and Democrats, including Rep. Antonio Delgado, the Democrat who represents Hoosick Falls, are demanding answers. Lawmakers should press the EPA to reverse its decision, and the Senate must not confirm acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler’s appointment until it does. His deep ties to the coal industry already made him an awful choice to lead the agency, and the PFOA decision does nothing to make anyone think otherwise.

 

What adjective would describe a government that fails to assure that Americans’ tap water is safe?

 

Heartless, maybe. Or disgraceful.

Click here to read the article on Timesunion.com.


Reports Claim EPA Refuses to Limit Water Contaminants

It was reported earlier this week that the Environmental Protection Agency has decided not to establish limits for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, causing outrage among advocates for clean water in Upstate New York.

Toxic chemicals such as PFOA and PFOS have contaminated the drinking water in Hoosick Falls and Petersbugh in the Rensselaer County of New York.

In a letter written to Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the EPA, Rep. Antonio Delgado stated, “many of my constituents have lost loved ones or suffer themselves from the adverse effects of PFAS water contamination.”

“Americans have a right to know how much, if any, of this chemical is in their drinking water,” Delgado said. “They have a right to be informed if the problem is getting worse, and they should be able to trust that federal regulators will work to ensure that their communities are safe.”

The EPA has been supporting the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce regulation of chemicals and other environmental hazards in favor of industries.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., met with Wheeler on Wednesday to discuss the issue, but was not satisfied with the answers that were provided. Gillibrand claims that she will be voting against Wheeler’s confirmation as EPA administrator.

“If the administration truly refuses to act, Congress will need to step in to deliver the safe drinking water standards the American people need and deserve,” U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko said in a statement.

The EPA had claimed it would issue a management plan for PFOA and PFOS by Fall of 2018, but has yet to do so. The possibility of it not including a cap on the hazardous chemicals has further caused an issue for environmental advocates and residents of the affected communities.

The N.Y. Water Project, formed by Hoosick Fall Residents, issued a statement on the matter as well.

“When the EPA came to Hoosick Falls, we were told again and again that tackling PFOA was a top priority. But it turns out this was all an act. By refusing to set a limit on PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, Trump’s EPA has hung human health out to dry.”

Click here to read more.


Nation’s Toughest Standards Proposed by NYS Drinking Water Quality Council

New York State may now have the toughest standards in the nation for drinking water after the state’s Drinking Water Quality Council recommended maximum contaminant levels for toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other health risks.

The New York State Drinking Water Quality Council met on Tuesday to discuss maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFOA, PFOS and 1,4-Dioxane, which were found to have contaminated the drinking water in Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh and other communities.

The council voted to recommend a MCL of 10 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS, as well as a MCL of 1 part per billion for 1,4-Dioxane.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current health advisory is at 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS. A MCL of 7 parts per trillion was recommended by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in June.

Rob Hayes from the Environmental Advocates of New York group stated, “the science has been very clear that low maximum contaminant levels are necessary to protect our most vulnerable populations from the negative health impacts of these chemicals, especially pregnant women and children.”

This recommendation comes after tireless advocacy by residents who have been impacted by contamination in towns such as Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh.

“It has been more than three years since the water crisis in Hoosick Falls came to light. And the council made a promise to these residents that they were going to protect drinking water for all New Yorkers.”

Now that the council has established their MCL recommendations, the Commissioner of Health will consider the recommendations and, ultimately, will be voted on by the Public Health and Health Planning Council.

Click here to learn more.


New Study Finds PFOA Contamination May Have Spread Through Air

PFOA contaminationIn a recent study, a team of faculty and student researchers at Bennington College discovered elevated levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in soil samples stretching a 120 square mile area east of the ChemFab plant in North Bennington, Vermont.

ChemFab was previously owned by Saint Gobain, the manufacturing company accountable for contaminating the groundwater in Hoosick Falls.

A consent order with Vermont had only identified around 12 square miles of contaminated land and Saint Gobain claimed that their PFOA emissions were limited to only the nearby neighborhoods.

The study brings to light the discovery of elevated PFOA levels in soil located downwind of the Saint Gobain facilities, including the Hoosick Falls plant.

“The pattern in soil seem fairly clear,” said David Bond, a Bennington College professor involved in the study. “They all point back to the Saint-Gobain plants in North Bennington and Hoosick Falls.”

“Our research suggests Saint-Gobain has been insisting on a microscopic view of a wide angle problem. When you zoom out, you begin to see just how extensive PFOA contamination may actually be,” Bond added.

Click here to read more.


PFOA and PFOS: In-Depth Look at Chemicals Creating Major Concerns

In the past few years, contamination of drinking water supplies has been discovered in several small towns in northeastern upstate New York as well as in a nearby community in North Bennington, Vermont.

Thereafter, similar contamination was discovered near a plant in New Hampshire, on Cape Cod and near Newburgh, New York.  The chemical involved in all three drinking water supplies is perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA). This chemical, or a closely related one known as PFOS, has turned up in the drinking water of multiple other localities.

What makes this discovery striking is that this contamination was discovered not through routine governmental required testing, but through the vigilance and diligence of concerned citizens.

In the case of North Bennington, the state of Vermont quickly became actively involved. While in New York, the state government was slow to react and when it did, performed rather unevenly, causing residents to consume contaminated water for many months after the contamination was discovered.

Faraci Lange is handling multiple cases in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh, the two upstate New York towns where the contamination was discovered, and where efforts are now underway to deal with the problem.

 

What is PFOA?

PFOA is a man-made chemical not found in nature. It is an eight carbon chain with each but the last carbon atom bonded to fluorine atoms.  The last carbon atom is bonded to an oxygen atom and an OH group, making it an acid. However, the acid form of this molecule is not typically how it is used in manufacturing.

Ammonium perfluorooctanoate (APFO), which is the initial form of the acid, is used as a surfactant in the production of PTFE coated materials including Teflon® cooking surfaces and various waterproof and stain-proof fabrics used for carpeting, upholstery, clothing, tapes and various other uses.

As a surfactant, APFO is added to PTFE dispersions to help the chemical mixture spread evenly on whatever surface it is being applied. The object is then heated causing the PTFE to adhere to the surface and the APFO to vaporize and discharge into the air.

APFO was invented, manufactured and sold by the 3M Corporation until approximately 2001.  3M became concerned about the health hazards of APFO and decided to stop manufacturing the chemical. Thereafter, DuPont, which has been one of the largest customers of 3M in purchasing the chemical to make its Teflon® products, began to manufacture the chemical for its own use and for sale to other manufactures of PTFE resins.

In 2006, due to human health concerns, the United States Environmental Protection Agency initiated the 2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program. Eight major companies committed to reduce facility emissions and product contents of PFOA and related chemicals (including PFOS) on a global basis by 95% no later than 2010 and to work toward eliminating emissions and product content of these chemicals by 2015. To a large extent this goal was accomplished, but the chemicals substituted in their places are very similar man-made multiple carbon chain molecules with untested and unknown health effects.

 

How does PFOA get into drinking water?

When the vaporized APFO cools after being exhausted out of the stacks of the manufacturing facility, it forms particulate matter that is carried by the air until it settles to the ground or is washed out of the air by precipitation. Once it reaches the soil, it loses the NHgrouping and converts to the acid form.

PFOA then readily dissolves into water and washes down into the groundwater.  It also dissolves into surface waters out of the air and the remnants of the original dispersion containing APFO are frequently discharged in liquid form by these same manufacturing facilities into both ground and surface waters near the facilities.

 

What are the health hazards of PFOA?

PFOA and a related chemical PFOS, which is another eight carbon manmade molecule used in foam fire retardants, are particularly troublesome because they are both highly resistant to breakdown in the environment. Once they convert to the acid form, there is nothing in nature that breaks them down, and they will persist for decades or centuries.

Equally problematic is their persistence once they are inhaled, ingested or absorbed into the human body.  Studies have shown it takes two to seven years for the body to rid itself of half of the PFOA contained in blood serum. Thus, where there is long-term exposure and a buildup of these chemicals in the bloodstream, it can take a lifetime to reduce the levels.

Unfortunately, due to the persistence and ubiquity of these chemicals, even though they are not found in nature, they are found in all of us at low levels, usually determined to be about 2 parts per billion. People who consume water contaminated with PFOA, like the residents of Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh, can have levels hundreds of times above those background levels.

Studies of workers exposed to PFOA have shown multiple possible negative health effects for years. Both 3M and DuPont did internal unpublished worker studies which suggested multiple different adverse health effects, forming the basis of 3M stopping its production of the chemical. However, the most comprehensive study of PFOA health effects resulted from the 2006 settlement of a lawsuit brought against DuPont for contaminating the drinking water supply of approximately 70,000 people living in communities along the Ohio River in West Virginia and Ohio. DuPont’s Washington Works plant located in Parkersburg, WV released PFOA, which was referred to as C8, into the air and into the Ohio River causing this contamination.

A lawsuit brought on behalf of citizens in the affected communities resulted in a massive study of the health effects of this chemical funded by DuPont as a condition of the settlement. Almost 70,000 people participated by completing surveys of their health histories and being tested for PFOA in their bloodstreams. Pursuant to the settlement, the C8 Science Panel was selected by attorneys for DuPont and the plaintiffs and consisted of three nationally recognized epidemiologists. They were tasked with reviewing the data generated from the study and determining whether there were any illnesses in this population that were likely related to the PFOA exposures.

The panel concluded that PFOA created an elevated risk of kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, elevated liver enzymes, elevated uric acid levels, high cholesterol and pregnancy induced hypertension, and that in virtually all cases, the risk increased with level of exposure, which is referred to as a dose-response. Follow up studies found evidence of associations to other diseases including ovarian cancer.

 

Federal and State Regulation of PFOA

PFOA and PFOS are among thousands of man-made chemicals that were unregulated by either the state or federal governments until recently.

In 2009, the EPA identified PFOA as an emerging contaminant of concern and issued a provisional health advisory stating that short term (weeks to months) exposure to PFOA-contaminated water at a concentration of 400 parts per trillion (ppt) can cause human health effects. The EPA also advised at that time that long-term exposure to PFOS-contaminated water at a concentration of 200 parts per trillion (ppt) can cause human health effects.

Following EPA’s action in 2009, several states including Minnesota, Maine and New Jersey set drinking water limits for PFOA below EPA’s short term exposure level of 400 ppt. By 2016, EPA issued a health advisory warning that drinking water should not contain more than 70 ppt. Other states, including Vermont, set even lower limits, with Vermont setting a limit of 20 ppt. Leading scientists in the field have concluded that even these limits are too high and the standard should be set at 1 ppt.

Levels discovered in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh were as high as 600 to several thousand parts per trillion. Water filtration systems have been installed on the public water supply after residents went months only drinking bottled water. Individual point of entry treatment systems (POET) were installed on hundreds of private wells in the area. A long-term source of clean drinking water is being sought for both communities, but this will not be an easy task.

 

Civil Lawsuits against Polluters

Class action lawsuits are now underway in state and federal courts on behalf of the citizens of Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh, seeking recoveries from the companies responsible for the contamination.

These suits are claiming property devaluation damages and are also seeking to establish a medical surveillance program to screen the exposed population for the diseases associated with PFOA exposure to promote early diagnosis and treatment.

Faraci Lange is lead counsel in those cases. In addition, several cases have been filed by residents exposed to PFOA who have been diagnosed with illnesses associated with PFOA exposure, and more will be filed in the coming months.

 

Stephen G. Schwarz, Managing Partner of Faraci Lange, is representing plaintiffs in the Hoosick Falls water contamination class action as Co-Lead Counsel with Hadley Matarazzo.

 

 


New York Considers Tougher Water Quality Standards

The twelve-member Drinking Water Quality Council held its first meeting today to consider establishing maximum contaminant levels for toxic chemicals in New York State water.

Some say that this rule-making is necessary because of a lack of continuity in the system of federal water quality regulation.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has requested that the council consider setting the maximum contaminant levels for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), as well as perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and 1,4-Dioxane.

Brad Hutton, the deputy commissioner of public health for the New York State Department of Health, stated that the council has been given the responsibility on advising the DOH commissioner on what unregulated contaminants should be tested throughout the state.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency monitors several unregulated contaminants every five years, according to the Safe Drinking Water Act’s guidelines. This leaves gaps in the federal system’s approach of ensuring water quality.

“They have been moving too slow of a pace,” stated Hutton, stressing the state’s need of establishing its own maximum contaminant levels.

Read the full article here.


Studies Presume PFOA to be Immune Hazard for Humans

PFOA immune hazardThe National Toxicology Program recently conducted a systematic review of immunotoxicity associated with exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and concluded that the chemical is presumed to be an immune hazard to humans.

The NTP found a high level of evidence that PFOA suppressed the antibody response from
animal studies and the moderate level of evidence from studies in humans. The research also found a high level of evidence that PFOA increased hypersensitivity-related outcomes from animal studies and low level of evidence from studies in humans.

There is additional, although weaker, evidence that is primarily from epidemiological studies that PFOA reduced infectious disease resistance and increased autoimmune disease.

The evidence indicating that PFOA affects multiple aspects of the immune system supports the overall conclusion that PFOA alters immune function in humans.

Read the full report here.

Residents of Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh and other communities who believe they may have been impacted by the PFOA water contamination are encouraged to contact us or submit a contamination contact form.


NYS Assembly Schedules Water Quality Hearing

water contaminationA victory for the team involved in the Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh water contamination cases was accomplished yesterday when it was announced that the Assembly will hold public hearings on water quality in New York State in early September.

Two public hearings will be held in Albany and Suffolk County related to harmful water contamination situations in various communities across New York State. The Assembly will review the causes and response to the known contaminations as well as measures to prevent future occurrences.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Steve Englebright and Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried will, “examine the issue of water contamination and assess our current laws and public policies on these matters, and how they’re working, to protect public access to safe, clean water.”

Heastie stated how, “Recent reports of water contamination in municipalities across the state have highlighted the need for a thorough review of measures to ensure clean and healthy water in our communities.”

Residents of Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh and other communities who believe they may have been impacted by the PFOA water contamination are encouraged to contact us or submit a contamination contact form.


PFOA Blood Testing in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh NY

The New York State Department of Health is offering blood testing for people with concerns about PFOA contamination from living and/or working in the Hoosick Falls or Petersburgh areas. See below for details:

 

Hoosick Falls: Tuesday, July 12th from 2 PM to 7 PM

Saturday July 16th from 9 AM to 3 PM

HAYC3 Armory, Hoosick Falls, NY

 

Petersburgh:  Saturday, July 23rd from 9 AM to 2 PM

Petersburgh Veterans Memorial Community Center

Hoosick Falls Blood TestingPetersburgh Blood Testing

Residents of Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh and other communities who believe they may have been impacted by the PFOA water contamination are encouraged to submit a contact form.