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.
The Department of Health studied data from New York State’s Cancer Registry between the dates of January 1995 through December 2014 to analyze cancers diagnosed among residents of Hoosick Falls.
The investigation reported lower rates of certain types of cancer that have been linked to long-term PFOA exposure, including kidney, thyroid and testicular cancers.
A significantly elevated rate of lung cancer, which has not been linked to PFOA exposure, was however reported. There were 91 cases of lung cancer found during the study period – much higher than the expected rate of 65 cases for a population of this size.
Critics found the investigation to be flawed as it did not take into account the Hoosick Falls residents who were diagnosed with cancer after moving away from the village.
The report also fails to indicate whether cancer rates were specifically reviewed among individuals whose blood contained elevated levels of PFOA.
“The purpose of the investigation was to determine whether village residents who consumed contaminated water had increased rates of cancer relative to the rest of the state,” stated deputy commissioner for public health Brad Hutton.
Residents who live in the town of Hoosick surrounding the village were also not included in the study. The Department of Health stated that it limited its investigation to village residents since their level of exposure to PFOA was consistent.
Additionally, the study was limited to cancer and ignored other health conditions that have been linked to high exposure of PFOA, such as preeclampsia, colitis, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and respiratory problems.
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.
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.