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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Hoosick Falls Receives State Grant for Water Contamination Costs

Hoosick Falls water contaminationThe state Environmental Facilities Corporation has granted $220,000 to the village of Hoosick Falls for engineering and other expenses related to the toxic PFOA contamination in the town’s water supply.

According to the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the grant money would need to be repaid only if the village comes to a settlement with the two companies held responsible for the pollution and are reimbursed for the contamination costs.

Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, stated that, “This funding will help the village as they continue to seek a fair monetary settlement with the polluters and hold them accountable for their actions…A great deal of progress has been made, but there is more work to be done, and this funding is simply one more way to support the village as they move forward.”

Earlier this week, the state Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously on a bill that would allow Hoosick Falls to to issue bonds to help cover additional contamination-related costs.

The legislation will be voted on by the complete Senate in the coming days.

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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.


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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Village Mayor Agrees Hoosick Falls Water is Now Clean

Lori Van Buren

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.

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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.


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.

Read the full article here.


Youth of Hoosick Falls Demand Clean Water in Social Media Ads

A series of new social media ads posted to Facebook feature several teenage residents of Hoosick Falls demanding the right to clean drinking water.

One of the ads states, “Everyone takes water for granted. You never expected for a contamination like that to get into our water.”

The ads have been posted by the Environmental Advocates of New York and Effective New York.

The two organizations are teaming up to lobby for a constitutional amendment that would grant New Yorkers the right to healthy drinking water, clean air, and a safe climate.

“I think one of the highest priorities of New York should be to have a healthy environment,” another ad says. “It’s ridiculous we should even have to ask for the right of clean water.”

Read more here.