The 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.
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.
Hoosick Falls Mayor, David Borge, recently stated that he is in agreement with the New York State Health Commissioner’s view that the village now has some of the cleanest drinking water in the country.
On Tuesday, Mayor Borge stated, “I agree with the Commissioner’s statement and we have had clean water since March of 2016.”
Since the discovery of dangerously high levels of PFOA in the village’s water supply in 2014, Hoosick Falls and New York State officials have been working to ensure clean drinking water for residents.
Hoosick Falls’ municipal water system was completely transitioned to the new full-capacity carbon filtration system earlier this month. This new system facilitates for higher volume treatment of water, ensuring the village access to clean drinking water.
“The full capacity GAC system replaced the temporary system and we continue to have non-detect sampling results. Municipal water users can be confident of the effectiveness of the technology and the results,” said Mayor Borge.
In a 39 page decision released today, United States District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn of the Northern District of New York denied the motion filed by defendants Saint Gobain and Honeywell seeking to dismiss the consolidated Hoosick Falls water contamination class action filed on behalf of village residents.
The Court held that plaintiffs had properly stated valid legal claims for negligence, trespass and nuisance due to the PFOA contamination of the drinking water in Hoosick Falls allegedly caused by the defendants.
The defendants made the argument that contaminating a resident’s drinking water does not give rise to a valid claim because the water is not owned by the resident but by the State of New York. This argument was rejected by the Court in the today’s decision.
The Court also held that plaintiffs’ claims to establish a medical monitoring program for the residents of Hoosick Falls to facilitate early diagnosis and treatment of diseases related to PFOA exposure could proceed because the residents had properly alleged an injury to both person and property.
The Court did grant one portion of defendants’ motion dismissing nuisance claims brought on behalf of the residents who obtained their water from the public water supply, holding that these residents could not bring a private nuisance claim.
Hoosick 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.
An 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.
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.
After discovering that they may not receive grant money from a state agency, Hoosick Falls village officials must now seek other funding sources in order to expand the municipal water system.
According to Mayor David Borge, the proposed project to extend water and sewer to properties with PFOA-contaminated drinking wells will not be eligible for grants unless a new water municipality is formed.
In addition, the project’s Environmental Facilities Corporation ranking was not high enough to qualify it for no-interest loans or grants.
At a Village Board meeting held last week, Mayor Borge said that the village will work with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Kathleen Marchione to look for other sources of funding.
Last week, Rensselaer County legislators unanimously approved a resolution in hopes of speeding up the cleanup process of the site identified as the source of PFOA contamination in Hoosick Falls.
The resolution was suggested by the Legislature’s chairman, Stan Brownell.
Along with including the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics’ McCaffrey Street plant on the federal Superfund National Priorities List, the resolution also asks for adequate funding and a proper timeline for the cleanup.
PFOA, which has been linked to numerous chronic health risks, has been affecting Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh residents for over a year.
“This is an important property in Hoosick Falls, and inclusion on the federal National Priorities List will help restore the property and resolve some of the concerns residents have regarding the PFOA situation,” said Brownell. “We also have asked the federal government to provide a specific timeline for this important remediation work. A clear and direct line of communication with residents on this project, and continued progress, are needed to restore confidence and trust.”
The Rensselaer County Legislature also recently approved a resolution to establish a website dedicated to informing residents about the cleanup project.