Good News/Bad News in Hoosick Falls

Residents of Hoosick Falls, New York dealing with the crisis caused by the contamination of their water supply with the dangerous chemical PFOA have recently received some important news.

First, the good news is that on January 13, 2016, the State of New York formally requested the EPA add the Village to its National Priorities List, designating it a Federal “superfund site”.  Two weeks later, Governor Cuomo designated PFOA a “hazardous substance” and named Hoosick Falls a state superfund site.  These actions are good news, in that government agencies are finally acknowledging the dangers of PFOA, and they will eventually result in the government doing what it should have been done a long time ago:  investigate all the sources of PFOA, and document its effects on citizens.  These actions should eventually lead to a comprehensive biomonitoring program and a scientific study of PFOA’s health effects in the Village over recent decades.

However, “superfund” designations can be bad news too:  they bring “stigma” to property, as well as a reduction in value.  Indeed, two banks have already suspended issuing mortgages and refinancing in Hoosick Falls.  A superfund site is also disruptive of community life, and puts demands on citizens as they work together to find long-range solutions.

While the government may answer the many questions facing Hoosick Falls, it cannot remedy or compensate for the harm and damages residents have suffered and continue to suffer.  Those remedies, most likely, will only be found in a courtroom.   Williams Cuker Berezofsky and Faraci & Lange continue to investigate bringing a lawsuit to seek those remedies.

In the meantime, we continue to advise:

  • make your voice heard in decisions the government makes about its investigation;
  • get your blood tested as soon as the Department of Health makes the test for PFOA available;
  • if you have a private well, get it tested now; and
  • contact us with any questions you have regarding your rights.

Governor Cuomo’s Administration To Declare Hoosick Falls a Superfund Site

hoosick fallsDuring a press conference on Wednesday, Cuomo Administration officials announced that the state will declare the polluted water of Hoosick Falls a Superfund site, allowing the state to investigate the extent of any contamination and to begin remediation immediately.

The Department of Environmental Conservation on Wednesday issued an emergency regulation that will allow the state to list perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been linked to cancer and may have polluted the Hoosick Falls water supply, as a hazardous substance.

The Department of Health will initiate a health-risk analysis, install filtration systems at schools and other community gathering places and develop a state telephone hotline for health information, state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said at the conference. Blood testing of community members will begin in mid-February.

Zucker said the state will also revise the level of PFOA in water that it considers safe. The state currently considers a PFOA level in water safe as long as it is below 50,000 parts per trillion. That number is dramatically above the federal recommendation of 400 parts per trillion. Zucker said the state will set a new level within the next few weeks.

Residents of Hoosick Falls, a Rensselaer County community, first raised questions about the polluted water more than a year ago, when the village began to see elevated levels of unusual types of cancers and other medical conditions consistent with unhealthy PFOA levels. State officials learned about the pollution in late 2014, but did not conduct testing until July 2015, Zucker acknowledged.

Shortly after being informed of the situation this fall, the EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck took prompt action and federal regulators issued the warning about drinking.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and administration officials met with town officials shortly before Wednesday’s press conference.

“These actions will ensure that the source and extent of PFOA contamination is identified, and all necessary steps are taken to swiftly address the chemical’s presence,” Cuomo said in a statement. “My administration is investigating this situation fully, and we will do whatever is necessary to ensure safe, clean drinking water for local residents.”

For decades, the Saint-Gobain factory in Hoosick Falls produced Teflon-coated materials that the EPA says may have polluted the village water supply with PFOA, a toxic chemical that is used in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and packaging. The EPA is investigating whether that chemical may have seeped into village wells when workers cleaned smokestack filters and other equipment at the factory, which Saint-Gobain has owned since 1999. Other factories in town may also used the chemical and its exact source has not yet been pinpointed.

The state’s inaction for more than a year caused more people to be exposed to PFOA, said Michael Hickey, a town resident who used his own money to discover the PFOA levels in the town’s water. After his father’s death from cancer, Hickey took his own water samples from sources around town and sent them to a lab out of state that confirmed elevated levels of PFOA.

Read the full article here.

Faraci Lange is currently investigating bringing a lawsuit against one or more companies believed to be responsible for the cancers and other illnesses caused by this PFOA water contamination in Hoosick Falls.

Residents of Hoosick Falls and other communities who believe they may have been impacted are encouraged to contact Stephen G. Schwarz at (585) 325-5150 or to complete a water contamination contact form. You may also contact us here.


No Easy Answers for Hoosick Falls Water Problem

In December, more than a year after government officials knew that toxic levels of PFOA had tainted the Village water supplies, Hoosick Falls residents learned that their drinking water was contaminated. Since then, residents have grappled with the knowledge that they have been exposed to a toxic chemical capable of causing multiple health problems.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that PFOA is toxic. It poses potential adverse effects to human health and because it does not break down easily, is persistent in the environment.

At a meeting on Thursday, January 14 at the Central School, organized in response to the concerns of the Hoosick Falls community, the EPA, Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Conservation presented information about the PFOA contaminated water and answered questions from residents. The health and environmental agencies advised residents:

  • Do not drink, brush your teeth, or use the water from the Hoosick Falls public water supply for cooking;
  • Children and people with skin conditions or abrasions should not expose their skin to the water;
  • Minimize inhalation of water from showering or bathing;
  • Do not use the water for humidifiers; and
  • If you have a private well, contact the NY State Dept of Health to have it tested. Contact Albert DeMarco at 518 402-7860 or e-mail beei@health.ny.gov

Some important questions, such as how long residents have been exposed, and how long they will be without an untainted water supply, went unanswered.

For more information on testing, your legal rights, potential claims and more, fill out this questionnaire and request for information and “print to PDF” and save to file to send via email to:

gwilliams@wcblegal.com

or print to send by U.S. Mail to:

Williams Cuker Berezofsky

1515 Market Street, Suite 1300

Philadelphia, PA 19102

Hoosick Falls Resident Questionnaire – Contact Form.

The Department of Health is planning blood testing for exposed residents and a community meeting to discuss this will be announced soon. “Like” the Williams Cuker Berezofsky Facebook page to stay informed about testing, meetings, and more.


Help for Hoosick Falls Residents With Housing Matters

The Hoosick Falls water supply is contaminated with toxic levels of PFOA poses.  This not only puts the  health of residents at risk, but also poses many challenges, such as damage to property values.

A diminished home value can put residents already are struggling with their mortgage payments at increased risk of foreclosure because the loss of value makes finding refinancing options more difficult.

We have heard from Hoosick Falls residents saying that their property value has dropped sharply since discovery of the contamination of the town’s water supply.

An important resource for Hoosick Falls residents struggling with your mortgage or facing foreclosure is the Troy Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (TRIP), Inc.  TRIP has a Default/Foreclosure Prevention Counseling program that may be able to provide important information and assistance in saving your home from foreclosure.

The loss of property value may be a recoverable item of damages in a lawsuit.  If you believe that your property is losing value because of the PFOA contamination in your water supply, you should contact us to discuss your legal rights.


EPA Holds Public Meeting to Discuss PFOA Water Contamination in Village of Hoosick Falls

EPA Hoosick Falls PFOA Water Contamination MeetingFaraci Lange attorneys Stephen Schwarz and Hadley Matarazzo attended a meeting last night convened by the Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Administrator, Judith Enck, and her staff to learn more about contamination of the Hoosick Falls public water supply with PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid).

Representatives from the EPA, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) and New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) presented information on PFOA, the associated health risks, plans to investigate the source and extent of the contamination, as well as plans to conduct a health study of Hoosick Falls Village residents.

Residents learned of the contamination when elevated levels of the toxic chemical, PFOA, were found in the system in 2014 by Michael Hickey, a former village trustee whose father died of cancer. Hickey sent water samples to a Canadian lab that reported levels of PFOA that the EPA later said are not safe for human consumption.

PFOA is a manmade chemical used to make non-stick and other household and commercial products that are heat-resistant and repel grease and water. Under a deal with the EPA, major PFOA makers began phasing out its use in 2006. PFOA exposure has been linked to increased health effects, including testicular and kidney cancer and thyroid disease.

Enck has urged village leaders to warn residents to stop drinking or cooking with the tap water and limit other exposure. Mayor David B. Borge had previously stated that it was a “personal choice” whether to consume the water, which comes from underground wells serving about 4,500 consumers.

The focus of the contamination has been a Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics manufacturing plant, although there are other potential sources that will be investigated. The small Saint-Gobain factory, the village’s largest employer with about 125 workers, is on a hill overlooking the Hoosick River, about 400 yards from village well fields.

According to the EPA’s 2009 provisional health advisory, people should not drink water or use it for cooking if it contains more than 400 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFOA. In June 2015, the EPA found that four out of five water samples collected from various locations within the public drinking water supply system in Hoosick Falls had more than 600 ppt of PFOA. Additionally, groundwater sampling in 2015 at the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility found levels as high as 18,000 ppt. Some private wells in the area have also shown the presence of PFOA, though not at levels above 400 ppt.

Hoosick Falls PFOA Water Contamination MeetingLast week, village trustees voted to have temporary filters installed on the water system. A long-term plan to install a charcoal filter system expected to remove PFOA from the water is set to be done later this year. Saint-Gobain has offered to pay to install and maintain the filter, and is also paying for residents to receive five gallons of water per day from the local Tops supermarket.

NYSDEC officials wrote to the U.S. EPA yesterday requesting that the sources of the Village of Hoosick Falls water contamination be added to the National Priorities List. This would make the sources of the contamination a Superfund site, which would avail the resources of the EPA and the federal government to address the source of the PFOA contamination. This will allow the EPA to begin an investigation into the sources of the PFOA contamination and, once identified, to explore options to remediate.

Read the EPA’s official answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Drinking Water and Groundwater Contamination in Hoosick Falls for more information. Concerned Hoosick Falls Village residents may also contact EPA Public Affairs Specialist, Larisa Romanowski, at 518.407.0400.

Faraci Lange is currently investigating bringing a lawsuit against one or more companies believed to be responsible for the cancers and other illnesses caused by this PFOA water contamination in Hoosick Falls.

Residents of Hoosick Falls and other communities who believe they may have been impacted are encouraged to contact Stephen G. Schwarz at (585) 325-5150 or click here to complete a contamination contact form. You may also contact us through our online intake form for a free legal consultation.