Twelve members of a new state Drinking Water Quality Council have been named, preparing the group to hold its first official meeting on October 2nd.
Governor Andrew Cuomo named his four designated council members on Friday. He also announced that the first task of the council will be to recommend maximum contaminant levels for PFOA, among other harmful chemicals.
The council is obligated to return its list of recommended maximum contaminant levels by October 2nd, 2018. The list would then be updated if needed on an annual basis.
“New York is once again stepping up as the federal government continues to ignore its duty to provide clear guidance to protect drinking water quality… Water quality is a national issue that requires consistent national standards, but New York can no longer afford to wait,” stated Governor Cuomo.
Members of the Drinking Water Quality Council include state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker and his designee Deputy Commissioner Brad Hutton, as well as state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos with his designee Executive Deputy Commissioner Ken Lynch.
Four of the council’s members were recommended by New York State Senate and Assembly leaders, while the other four were designated by Governor Cuomo.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency announced in a news release this week that it has added the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics site in the Village of Hoosick Falls to the Federal Superfund National Priorities List, which includes the nation’s most hazardous waste sites.
The agency’s decision will allow federal resources to be used to clean areas of Hoosick Falls that have been contaminated with PFOA and ensure that the health of village residents is protected.
The EPA’s designation will also allow the federal government to seek reimbursement from the companies that are responsible for the village’s contamination.
New York State Senator Charles Schumer stated, “I am glad that EPA has heeded our call to add this site to the Superfund list because it gives the EPA leverage to make the polluters pay and to set a protocol for investigation and clean-up.”
Since PFOA contamination was discovered in Hoosick Falls, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health, along with the EPA, have taken several steps to address the issue:
In January 2016, the NYSDEC added the Saint-Gobain site to New York State’s Superfund list and requested that the EPA include the site on EPA’s federal Superfund list.
In April and May 2016, the EPA installed monitoring wells to sample groundwater at and around the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility (McCaffrey Street facility) and sampled the Village water supply wells. The EPA also collected soil samples from the McCaffrey Street facility, Village ballfields and recreational areas.
In June 2016, the NYSDEC entered into a legal agreement with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation and Honeywell International Inc. and initiated a study of the nature and extent of contamination at the site.
In September 2016, the EPA proposed adding the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics site to the federal Superfund list.
Faraci Lange attorneys, Stephen Schwarz and Hadley Matarazzo, are representing residents of Hoosick Falls in a lawsuit against Saint-Gobain and Honeywell International for the PFOA contamination their manufacturing plants caused.
“To the extent that it makes more resources available to the community to address the problem, we’re happy to see that happen, Hadley stated to the New York Law Journal.
Last week marked the completion of 500 days of water contamination in Hoosick Falls with the chemical PFOA.
The Environmental Advocates of New York organized residents of Hoosick Falls to gather at the state capitol in Albany on Thursday to demand state leaders to find an uncontaminated source of drinking water for the community.
Advocates demand that the $2.5 billion clean water fund recently created in the state budget be used to restore clean water to Hoosick Falls immediately.
Currently, residents of Hoosick Falls are using filtered water from the treatment systems that have been put into place by the state to remove PFOA from the contaminated groundwater. However, residents are still afraid of the potential effects consuming the filtered water may have.
“We want to see a long-term solution to this where we’re providing clean water uncontaminated with PFOA to the village. But certainly, in the interim, we’re making sure this treatment system is 100 percent effective,” stated DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.
The DEC will soon announce the results of a feasibility study conducted to locate a new water source. Saint-Gobain and Honeywell were ordered by the state to execute this study.
“We’re looking at a few spots in the valley where enough water is being produced, at least water quality is good in a couple different wells that have been drilled. And we’re doing continual tests on that to make sure there’s enough water pressure and capacity,” said Seggos.
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.
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 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced this week that the municipal landfills in Hoosick Falls and Towns of Petersburgh and Berlin have been declared Potential State Superfund Sites.
These sites became eligible for potential placement on the State Superfund Site Registry after preliminary investigations discovered that the sites may contain PFOA, a chemical listed as a hazardous chemical by New York State.
Further investigation will look for evidence of hazardous waste disposed at the landfills and any resulting contamination that may pose a threat to public health or the environment.
“DEC remains committed to ensuring a comprehensive clean-up of the contamination in these communities,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Identifying these two landfills as P-sites is the next step in the state’s ongoing response to provide residents in these affected communities the information and protection they deserve.”
PFOA is believed to have been disposed at both landfills.
Monitoring wells at the Hoosick Falls site were found to contain concentrations of up to 21,000 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFOA, and samples at the Petersburgh/Berlin site were found to contain concentrations up to 4,200 ppt of PFOA.
The State Superfund Program allows the state to launch investigations of the contamination and hold the parties responsible accountable for the remediation of these sites.
The DEC will work to identify potentially responsible parties that disposed of hazardous wastes and hold them accountable for costs associated with the investigation and remediation.
On August 8th the Rensselaer County Department of Health released a statement to the Town of Petersburgh residents that a leak had been identified in the water system that required the activation of Well #2, a well that tested above the federal PFOA advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.
The EPA had recently established a health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA.
Consequently, residents were advised by the county and state Departments of Health to continue to, or in some cases revert back to, using bottled water for drinking, cooking, and preparing baby formula.
Bottled water has been made available at the Petersburgh Town Hall while the Departments of Health “work with the Town to correct this situation including the installation of a permanent water treatment system for the municipal supply.”
A Department of Environmental Conservation contractor recently installed filters in private wells in Hoosick Falls that were intended to eliminate PFOA, which is a chemical linked to causing cancer. However, these filters were labeled with a warning, saying the product is known “to cause cancer and birth defects.”
In addition, the label states that the water filter is illegal to use in the United States for human consumption, which is the main purpose of the private wells in Hoosick Falls.
The Department of Environmental Conservation made the following statement regarding this error:
“A supplier incorrectly shipped one box of valves that are not to be used with drinking water to a contractor. Immediately upon discovery late last night, DEC began tracking down the incorrect valves so they can be replaced. DEC terminated the companies responsible for the error. However, homeowners still continue to be advised not to drink or use water from the filtration systems until the state advises them that it is acceptable for all uses, so these systems were not used.”
The DEC also stated that it is unsure of how many incorrect water filters were installed.
If you have had a filter installed recently, please check the label to make sure it is not marked unsafe for consumption.
Saint-Gobain, the French company that has made Teflon-coated materials at a plant in the village of Hoosick Falls for decades, has retained a top lobbying firm as it braces for federal and state investigations and the possibility of enormous cleanup and legal costs for the contamination it may have caused in the village’s water supply.
Cozen O’Connor, which is the firm that Saint-Gobain has hired, already has its lobbyists beginning to reach out to federal elected officials in the state. Kenneth Fisher, a former New York City councilman, and Stuart Shorenstein are working with the company.
How exactly Hoosick Falls’ water supply became contaminated with industrial chemicals has not yet been determined. The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating and Governor Cuomo’s administration has declared that it will designate it a Superfund site, which could leave whoever was responsible liable for cleanup efforts that could cost up to tens of millions.
On Tuesday, Saint-Gobain began installing a temporary facility to treat the water in the village of about 5,000 people. The state Department of Health has signed off on that facility, which will be in place until a permanent system is installed later this year, according to Mayor David Borge. Saint-Gobain will pay more than $300,000 for the temporary system.
“We are hopeful that, once confirmatory testing of the new system demonstrates the safely of the water, EPA will inform the community that it is acceptable to use the water for household purposes,” Borge said in a statement.
The EPA says the Teflon-coated materials that the Saint-Goblin factory produced in the village for decades may have contaminated Hoosick Falls water supply with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a toxic chemical that is used in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and packaging and has been linked to cancer.
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.