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.
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.
The village of Hoosick Falls elected a new mayor in an unopposed election on Tuesday, who will soon inherit the responsibility of the ongoing PFOA water contamination cleanup.
Mayor-elect Rob Allen is a music teacher at the Hoosick Falls Central School District and is known to have strongly opposed the proposed settlement agreement that was previously on the table.
“The village needs to be protected and I didn’t feel like that settlement was going to protect the village,” stated Allen. “I mean it basically said we could have been sued coming out of that settlement,” he said.
Before taking any action, Allen wants to talk to the residents of Hoosick Falls who have been affected by the contamination, as well as lawyers and trustee board members, to learn as much as possible.
“This has to be about making sure remediation is done the right and proper way, and hopefully getting us a new water source,” Allen said.
Rob Allen will officially take the place of outgoing mayor David Borge on April 3rd.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.