In 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.
More than two years after the Taconic Plastics plant in Petersburgh, New York first alerted the state of concerns about contamination around its Route 22 facility, the company is beginning an in-depth investigation into the extent of PFOA contamination in the area.
Taconic will commence with doing soil tests and installing groundwater wells in order to study the actual extent of PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, contamination.
Following the discovery of PFOA contamination in the Village of Hoosick Falls’ water supply in 2016, Taconic approached the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Health Department regarding previous PFOA contamination at its Petersburgh facility.
Due to major concerns about the negative health effects this PFOA contamination might cause for residents in the years to come, Taconic signed a consent order with New York State requiring the installation of a filtration system on Petersburgh’s municipal water plant. Testing and filtration systems on private wells in the area were also mandated.
In addition, Taconic was required to investigate the scope of the contamination to see how much of the surrounding area had been affected, and to look into ways of remediation.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation recently announced that a report detailing the investigation’s discoveries will be released in 2019.
The DEC stated in its announcement that, “the information collected during the site investigation may also support the conclusion that no action, or no further action, is needed to address site-related contamination.”
There is currently an ongoing class action lawsuit against Taconic that has been filed by Petersburgh residents.
On Tuesday night, the Hoosick Falls Village Board unanimously voted to accept a $330,250 reimbursement from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International for costs to run and maintain the filtration system put in place after the village’s water supply was contaminated with PFOA.
This resolution is not a settlement agreement and so it does not exempt the companies from any future costs and damages.
It’s a huge help to our immediate cash flow. But there are no strings attached. It does not release them from suing them in the future,” stated Hoosick Falls Mayor Robert Allen.
According to Village calculations, Hoosick Falls has spent $707,392.62 due to the chemical PFOA contaminating their water supply. Mayor Allen stresses that they will continue to fight for complete reimbursement from the companies deemed responsible for the contamination.
The filtration system has been in place since 2016 and was paid for by Saint-Gobain and Honeywell. Since then, the energy and labor costs to run and maintain the system have been incurred by the Village.
In a statement, Saint-Gobain’s director of communications Dina Pokedoff said, “Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell have been in continuous dialogue with this administration, as well as the previous administration, to provide reimbursements to the village for the costs it incurred regarding the treatment systems that ensure village residents have access to potable drinking water.”
This resolution has come one year after the Hoosick Falls Village Board voted to reject a $1 million partial settlement agreement with Saint-Gobain and Honeywell due to widespread community opposition.
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.