State Orders Pollution Testing at Hoosick Falls Plants

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently ordered the longtime Hoosick Falls Company,  Oak Mitsui Inc, and its landlord to check its plants for pollution.

Oak Mitsui has had plants in Hoosick Falls since the 1970s and is now pulling out of the area, with one plant having closed two years ago and a second that will close in January.

The plants produced copper and aluminum foils for smartphones and other electronics.

“As part of the state’s ongoing efforts to address contamination in the Hoosick Falls area, DEC continues to investigate contamination potentially emanating from former Oak Mitsui facilities,” stated DEC spokeswoman Erica Ringewald.

Both of the company’s plants are located on the Hoosic River. The pollution testing will help to determine if the facilities should be added to the state Superfund cleanup program.

The plant that is still currently open was leased by Oak Mitsui from its former owner, Honeywell International. The company’s former site that closed in 2015 is still owned by Oak Mitsui.

Honeywell International signed an agreement with the DEC last week, consenting to examine its open site for pollution, including PFOA.

Oak Mitsui signed a similar agreement with the DEC last month to examine its former facility for PFOA and other pollution.

The agreement also requires the company to turn over its records on plant operations to the DEC, specifically on how hazardous waste was handled at the facility.

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EPA Adds Saint-Gobain Site to Federal Superfund Clean-Up List

Hoosick Falls EPAThe 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.


High PFOA Test Results Shock Hoosick Falls Residents

Hoosick Falls PFOA Water ContaminationGroundwater sampling from the Saint Gobain Performance Plastics manufacturing plant on McCaffery Street recorded PFOA levels at 130,000 parts per trillion. This is seven times higher than what was reported three years ago.

Saint Gobain’s Liberty Street site and Honeywell International’s John Street sites were also tested and both were found to be sources of contamination, according to Department of Environmental Conservation officials.

DEC Commissioner, Basil Seggos, states that the discrepancy in test results are due to having a limited number of samplings available in previous reports.

The test samplings included groundwater, soil and sediment, and others. Further investigation will determine the extent of the contamination, what elements are impacted and how widespread the contamination truly is.

Over 100 Village residents were present at the Hoosick Falls Center School to hear the results of the PFOA testing and learn what the next steps would be.

New York State officials, as well as Saint Gobain and Honeywell International representatives, spoke to residents and invited them to ask questions.

State officials also revealed additional sites that will be investigated further as possible sources of contamination, including the Hoosick Falls Landfill, the former Oak-Mitsui on First Street and Allied-Signal Laminate Systems on Mechanic Street.

An initial alternative water supply evaluation is expected to be completed by the fall. Residents will be given the opportunity to  review and comment on the proposed plan.

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Editorial: Cancer Study Provides Incomplete Picture of Health Impact

The Daily Gazette recently published an editorial elaborating on the lack of scope of the New York State Department of Health’s cancer study that investigated the impact Hoosick Falls’ PFOA water contamination had on residents’ health.

The study found that there were no elevated incidences of cancer among village residents due to the long term exposure of PFOA.

In the opinion of many, the study provides an incomplete and potentially inaccurate image of the effects of PFOA on Hoosick Falls residents.

For one, the investigation only took into account data from the state’s cancer registry of people residing in the Village of Hoosick Falls.

This left out people living in the surrounding town of Hoosick Falls, where more than 100 wells were contaminated with PFOA. This also excluded the town residents who get their water from the village’s municipal supply.

Additionally, the study also failed to include data from people who had previously lived in the contamination area but have since moved out.

Another factor was the length of the study. The investigation studied data from 1995, which is about 22 years. The contamination, however, is said to go back about 40 years.

The report also had a lack of transparency, with the names of the researchers and peer reviewers being unidentified. This makes it more difficult for the public to evaluate the qualifications of the people behind the study.

Read the full editorial here.


Community Meeting Addresses Questions About State Cancer Study

A community meeting was held in Hoosick Falls last week to address questions regarding the New York State Department of Health cancer study that was recently released.

The study, which investigates the effect of PFOA exposure on cancer rates in the Village of Hoosick Falls, was criticized by many for its narrow scope. Shortly after its release, residents gathered at the Hoosick Falls Armory for answers.

“Nobody is being held accountable. Nobody has even apologized for dumping toxins in the water,” said Barbara Burch, who previously lived in Hoosick Falls with her family but now resides in Petersburg.

Burch and her family have been consuming water contaminated with PFOA for over 20 years, after which her husband died from cancer.

“…nobody contacted me about his results or what happened to him,” stated Burch, feeling frustrated that her husband’s results were left out from the study.

Mayor Rob Allen was also present at the meeting and wanted the community to know that the Department of Health would be accessible to answer any questions.

“We spent a lot of time explaining what our study didn’t do…Our study does not dismiss or diminish the very valid concerns that residents have,” said Department of Health Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Brad Hutton.

More meetings will be scheduled in Hoosick Falls by the Department of Health for anyone who still has questions.

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Senate Approves Bill Allowing Hoosick Falls to Issue Bonds

Hoosick Falls PFOA contaminationThe New York State Senate approved legislation yesterday that will allow the Village of Hoosick Falls to issue bonds for up to $1.5 million to help cover the costs related to cleaning up the town’s PFOA water contamination.

The bill, which passed 60-2, will allow the village to issue bonds through the end of this year for cleanup costs and fees related to negotiating a settlement agreement with the responsible companies.

Hoosick Falls is also authorized to levy annual property taxes in order to pay for the annual debt service on the bonds, which can also be paid through water or sewage charges.

The village will have ten years to pay back bonds.

“We just needed some initial breathing room right now and in the near future so we can get things situated and work towards working on something with the companies,” stated village Mayor Rob Allen.

Mayor Allen explains that if a settlement agreement is reached with the polluters, that money will be used to pay the debt service as well as other expenses.

Unpaid expenses for testing, improvement, legal work, engineering and public relations services are reaching $1 million. However, Mayor Allen says the village is not planning to bond for the entire $1.5 million approves.

Next, the Bill will head to the Assembly for approval.

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500 Days of PFOA Contamination Raises Pressure to Find New Source of Water

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.

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Hoosick Falls Receives State Grant for Water Contamination Costs

Hoosick Falls water contaminationThe state Environmental Facilities Corporation has granted $220,000 to the village of Hoosick Falls for engineering and other expenses related to the toxic PFOA contamination in the town’s water supply.

According to the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the grant money would need to be repaid only if the village comes to a settlement with the two companies held responsible for the pollution and are reimbursed for the contamination costs.

Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, stated that, “This funding will help the village as they continue to seek a fair monetary settlement with the polluters and hold them accountable for their actions…A great deal of progress has been made, but there is more work to be done, and this funding is simply one more way to support the village as they move forward.”

Earlier this week, the state Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously on a bill that would allow Hoosick Falls to to issue bonds to help cover additional contamination-related costs.

The legislation will be voted on by the complete Senate in the coming days.

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Hoosick Falls Tables Vote on $1.04M Settlement Offer

Last week, the Hoosick Falls Village Board postponed its vote on the proposed settlement of $1.04 million offered by Saint-Gobain and Honeywell over the PFOA contamination of the village’s water supply.

Village officials approved the motion to table with a vote of 6-1, with Mayor David Borge opposing it due to his argument that the town is facing “real financial issues” without the settlement money.

After the vote, Mayor Borge stated that, “Someone is going to give us a check for $1 million, that is not going away…There are 1,900 people in this community that pay taxes. They were not all here tonight…We have a responsibility to look out for everyone in the village, both present and in the future, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Although the settlement would cover Hoosick Falls’ expenses relating to the contamination, it would prevent the village from bringing any future claims against Saint-Gobain and Honeywell.

Judith Enck, a Hoosick Falls community member and former administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, opposed the settlement offer stating, “This is a really good deal for St. Gobain and a really good deal for Honeywell, but this not the quality document you should be signing on behalf of the residents of Hoosick Falls.”

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Revised Settlement Agreement Offers Over $1 Million to Hoosick Falls

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International, the two companies held responsible for the PFOA water contamination in Hoosick Falls, offered a revised settlement this week that would pay over $1 million to the village.

This is an increase from the previous offer of $850,000 that was met with a great deal of criticism from village residents at a public meeting held to discuss the agreement last month.

The new agreement calls for Saint-Gobain and Honeywell to pay the village $1.045 million for the expenses incurred from the PFOA water contamination.

With this settlement agreement, the village would have to agree to not filing claims against the two companies for damages to the existing municipal water system.

A press release issued Wednesday states, “the agreement has been revised to ensure the village retains its right to pursue any other claims.”

These other claims could be for costs associated to, “new wells and related equipment, alternative water sources extensions or additions to the existing municipal water supply system, pollution from contaminants other than PFOA, and diminished property values.”

The proposed settlement will be considered at a board meeting being held today at 6 p.m. at the Hoosick Falls Armory.

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