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.

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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.


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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New Survey Seeks Insight Into Health Impacts of PFOA

The New York Department of Health announced this week that it will be launching a national health effects study of communities impacted by chemical substances such as PFOA, including Hoosick Falls.

Five states have signed up to support the DOH’s request to the Centers for Disease Control to launch the study, including Alaska, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

The Department of Health has also launched an online survey as part of a project called Understanding PFOA, which focuses on current or past residents of Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh, or Bennington.

This questionnaire is apart from previous studies as it will examine all illnesses linked to PFOA, not just cancers.

Questions asked in the survey, responses to which will be kept confidential, include where and when they lived in that particular area, their occupations, and any health conditions they have been diagnosed with.

“Are there trends, health trends in their communities, among the residents who consumed contaminated water?” stated environmental leader Judith Enck.

More than 1,700 residents in the Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh area have already completed the survey.

October 1st is the last day given to complete the health questionnaire.

The survey can be found online here. For those without access to a computer, a paper version of the questionnaire can be obtained by calling the DOH at 518-402-7950.

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Hoosick Falls Elects New Mayor, Providing Chance for Change

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 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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Motion to Dismiss Hoosick Falls Class Action Denied by Federal District Court

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 entire decision can be read here.


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.

Read the full article here.


Settlement of $850,000 Reached in Hoosick Falls Lawsuit

Hoosick Falls PFOA lawsuit settlementEarlier 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.

Read the full article here.