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.

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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.

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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.

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Legislators Urge Department of Health to Impose Maximum Contaminant Levels

PFOA water contaminationNew York State legislators Ellen Jaffee and Liz Krueger have called on the Department of Health to impose the maximum allowable amounts of PFOA, PFOS and 1,4-dioxane in drinking water.

Separate letters were sent to Howard Zucker, the DOH’s Commissioner, by the three legislators asking for mandatory levels of 4 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS and 0.3 parts per billion for 1,4-dioxane.

Ellen Jaffee, a Rockland County Democrat, wrote that the Drinking Water Quality Council had failed to be, “the champion for clean water that New York needs.”

The Drinking Water Quality Council, which was created in September 2017 and consists of twelve members, was given the responsibility to make recommendations for maximum contamination levels for PFOA, PFOS and 1,4-dioxane in drinking water by the end of September, which they were unable to do.

“New Yorkers cannot wait any longer to have their drinking water protected from these dangerous chemicals,” wrote Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat.

“To meet this important goal, DOH must take immediate action to establish MCLs for these chemicals,” she wrote. “Your leadership will be of critical importance to ensure that when New Yorkers turn on their taps, they can rest assured that their water is clean and safe to drink.”

Click here to read the letters written to the Department of Health.

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New York State Drinking Water Quality Council Finally Meets

Hoosick Falls Water ContaminationThe New York State Drinking Water Quality Council met earlier this week after months of delay, where they heard the concerns of residents who have been affected by contaminated water.

The council has previously promised Capital Region residents that they would bring forth regulations by this month, which has also been delayed.

Dr. Howard Sucker, the Department of Health’s commissioner, announced at the start of the meeting that maximum contaminant levels for PFOA and PFOS would not be recommended during this meeting. This was a disappointment for many residents as they believed regulations would be introduced in October.

“Such a rapidly evolving field of science makes it challenging and complicated,” stated Deputy Commissioner of Public Health Brad Hutton who serves on the council.

According to Hutton, new information was presented at the meeting that will allow the council to make maximum contaminant level recommendations at another meeting in the next couple of months.

“[Hoosick Falls residents] want there to be a legacy so that the rest of New York is protected from the situation they were exposed to and I completely understand that. We’re working to put that in place,” claimed Sutton.

Click here to read the full story.

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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.

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PFOA Contamination Study Begins In Petersburgh Taconic Plant

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.

Read the full article here.

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New York Considers Limits on PFOA Contamination in Drinking Water

In an effort to help New York’s Drinking Water Quality Council make recommendations for the maximum legal amount of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the state’s drinking water, the panel recently heard from experts on issues like laboratory methods and water treatment costs.

The panel was created in this year’s state budget and is mandated to make recommendations on contaminant limits by next October. This was the second meeting held by the panel and included statements made by residents of Petersburg and Hoosick Falls. Both communities have suffered from water supplies contaminated by PFOA manufacturers.

While the government and other states have established advisory levels for PFOA and other contaminates in water supplies, there is no law in place that establishes enforceable limits for such contaminates according to state Health Department Deputy Commissioner Brad Hutton. Hutton says the Health Department is going to set a legal enforceable level that all municipal water supplies have to adhere to.

Read the full article here.

For more information about the hearing and the current status of Hoosick Falls’ water contamination problem, click here.

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

Read the full article here.

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