New Water Quality Council Established and Ready to Address PFOA

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.

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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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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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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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Honeywell Conducting Investigation into New Pollution in Hoosick Falls

LUCAS WILLARD / WAMC

In a meeting held this week, Honeywell representatives informed residents that there may be another form of pollutant leaking into their drinking water, apart from PFOA chemicals they are already exposed to.

Under a state consent order, Honeywell is conducting an investigation into the detection of chemicals at the site of the company’s former building in Hoosick Falls.

The type of pollutant in question is called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Prior to this investigation, chemicals known as TCE and 111-TCA were found at the John Street Honeywell location.

Honeywell is now asking permission from Hoosick Falls residents to test their homes for VOCs, as directed by the consent order with the New York State Department of Health and Environmental Conservation.

39 properties surrounding the area of Honeywell’s former facility will be investigated, according to the company’s Global Remediation Director, John Morris.

At the meeting held this week, Morris explained to town residents that VOCs enter homes through vapors released from contaminated groundwater. Basements and living rooms will be tested in the specified homes.

TCE is a known carcinogen, according to the Department of Health. It can affect the central nervous system, liver, kidneys, reproductive and immune systems, and may also cause birth defects.

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Village Ignores Residents’ Concerns Regarding Controversial Settlement Agreement

The village of Hoosick Falls is in the process of finalizing a controversial settlement with the two companies that are to blame for the pollution of their water supply, despite villagers’ concerns with specific sections of the agreement.

A summary was posted on the village’s website last week that many felt casted aside the community’s concerns with the agreement.

The agreement will reimburse the lost revenues from the pollution of the water supply. However, there is a section in the agreement which will prevent the village from being able to sue the two companies at fault for the pollution if future contamination occurs from the existing groundwater wells they own. The villagers of Hoosick Falls believe this section should not be included in the agreement.

The village states that if there is future contamination, the state Department of Environmental Conservation can take action against the companies responsible for the pollution, but the villagers are not satisfied with this answer.

The vote on the agreement was initially set to have taken place last month, but was postponed due to the high volume of villagers’ concerns.

A meeting was set on January 12th to help resolve those concerns, but resulted in no success and Hoosick Falls’ residents felt their concerns were not taken into consideration for that section of the agreement.

The villagers will be noticed if a vote is scheduled or if amendments to the agreement are taking place.

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Hoosick Falls Considers Farmland for New Water Supply

Hoosick Falls PFOA contaminationHoosick Falls is looking into a farm along the Hoosic River located about a mile south of the village’s water treatment plant as an alternate water supply after the PFOA water contamination.

The farmland is owned by Jeffrey Wysocki, Hoosick town Councilman, and is located off Route 22 across from the central school district building.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation drilled a test well at the site and found that the underground water supply in the area is free of PFOA.

The state will begin installing a larger well line in two weeks to test the strength of the underground aquifer and to verify that it would be able to supply 500,000 gallons per day, which is the village’s water usage requirement. In addition, it will also re-test the water for any contamination.

The DEC has been leading the search for an alternate water supply since last February.

Sean C. Mahar from the DEC stated, “Our investigation has been thorough and accomplished a lot in a relatively short period of time…We have a very promising location.”

The next step will include Saint-Gobain and Honeywell to conduct studies that would rank and provide cost estimates of all the alternate water supply options. The proposals will be introduced in community hearings allowing for public input.

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Village Board of Hoosick Falls Considers PFOA Contamination Agreement

Hoosick Falls PFOA lawsuitAn agreement with Saint Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International, the two companies being held accountable for the PFOA water contamination in Hoosick Falls, is being considered by the village board.

The agreement, which is estimated to cost the two companies $850 thousand, will reimburse the village of Hoosick Falls for the losses it incurred from decreased water and sewer revenues, in addition to the costs of flushing water pipes.

The village board will consider the agreement at a meeting being held today at 6 p.m. at the Hoosick Falls Senior Center.

Learn more about the proposed agreement on the Hoosick Falls Water Contamination website here.

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