Man Credited with Discovering PFOA in Hoosick Falls Files Lawsuit

Lawsuit Filed Hoosick FallsMichael Hickey, the man who was credited to have discovered the toxic chemical PFOA in the water supply of Hoosick Falls two years ago, filed a federal class-action lawsuit this week.

The lawsuit, which Hickey filed on behalf of himself and his son, targets manufacturing plants Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International as the potential cause of the contamination.

Hickey states that his concern of any future health effects caused by their consumption of the PFOA-tainted water for years lead him to pursue this claim.

The lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court in Albany and is one of several lawsuits filed this year on behalf of Hoosick Falls residents. Some allege that they may have developed serious health issues due to the PFOA exposure.

Hickey began looking into the village’s water two years ago when he noticed an unusually high rate of cancer among the community residents. This is when he detected an elevated level of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a harmful man-made chemical, in the public drinking-water supply.

The complaint was filed on behalf of Hickey by Stephen G. Schwarz and Hadley L. Matarazzo of Faraci Lange LLP, Gerald J. Williams, Esther E. Berezofsky and Michael J. Quirk of Williams Cuker & Berezofsky, and Eric Chaffin and Roopal P. Luhana of Chaffin Luhana LLP.

Read the full story here.


Governor Cuomo Claims PFOA is Removed from Hoosick Falls Water

Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo visited Hoosick Falls, NY on Sunday and announced that a new filtration system in the town has successfully eliminated PFOA from the municipal water supply.

At a command center set up in Hoosick Falls by the Department of Environmental Conservation, Cuomo announced, “The PFOA is out of the water.”

Nevertheless, state officials are still warning Hoosick residents not to use tap water for consumption until a complete flush of the water system has been conducted.

Cuomo also discussed several permanent solutions that are being considered, which include using water from the Hoosic River, increasing the capacity of a village well that has lower levels of PFOA, or using a reservoir about 12 miles away.

The state aims to have the new system delivering clean tap water by next week.

Read the full story here.

Residents of Hoosick Falls and other communities who believe they may have been impacted by the PFOA water contamination are encouraged to submit a contact form.


Water Filters Installed in Private Wells Labeled Not Safe for Consumption in Hoosick Falls

A Department of Environmental Conservation contractor recently installed filters in private wells in Hoosick Falls that were intended to eliminate PFOA, which is a chemical linked to causing cancer. However, these filters were labeled with a warning, saying the product is known “to cause cancer and birth defects.”

In addition, the label states that the water filter is illegal to use in the United States for human consumption, which is the main purpose of the private wells in Hoosick Falls.

Hoosick Falls Water Filter

The Department of Environmental Conservation made the following statement regarding this error:

“A supplier incorrectly shipped one box of valves that are not to be used with drinking water to a contractor. Immediately upon discovery late last night, DEC began tracking down the incorrect valves so they can be replaced. DEC terminated the companies responsible for the error. However, homeowners still continue to be advised not to drink or use water from the filtration systems until the state advises them that it is acceptable for all uses, so these systems were not used.”

The DEC also stated that it is unsure of how many incorrect water filters were installed.

If you have had a filter installed recently, please check the label to make sure it is not marked unsafe for consumption.

Read the full article here.


Residents of Hoosick Falls and other communities who believe they may have been impacted by the PFOA water contamination are encouraged to submit a contact form.


Hoosick Falls Classified as Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site

February 16, 2016

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) at concentrations exceeding established criteria has been found in Hoosick Falls water supply system and several non-municipal wells in the Town of Hoosick. NYSDOH has also identified lower concentrations of PFOA in private wells and other public water supplies in the Town.

A notice issued by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation showed elevated levels of PFOA  in groundwater at the site of Saint-Gobain on McCaffrey Street and classified Hoosick Falls as Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site. 

Read the Full Notice http://www.dec.ny.gov/data/der/factsheet/442046class2.pdf 


Hoosick Falls Update: EPA Soil Sampling at Ballfields

CaptureThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it will be testing soil samples from three ballfields in the village of Hoosick Falls that are located near a possible source of the town’s recent PFOA water contamination.

The sample testing will determine if the PFOA that was released into the air in the past from local facilities also contaminated the soil on the village’s ballfields due to their close proximity to the suspected source. Testing the ballfields will also show if the area had been used for disposal in the past.

This test will consist of samples taken at seven different locations on the three fields, as well as their dugout and bleacher areas. These samples will be tested for PFOA, its related chemicals, and several pollutants. The results will determine if cleanup work is necessary in the area by comparing them to the EPA’s established standards.

The results of the soil testing are expected to come back between late March and early April. The EPA will hold a public meeting to announce the results and answer questions before the start of the baseball and softball season.

Additional information about the Hoosick Falls water contamination can be found here or on the EPA website.

Residents of Hoosick Falls and other communities who believe they may have been impacted are encouraged to contact us and complete a water contamination contact form.


Banks Suspend Granting Mortgages in Hoosick Falls

The Bank of Bennington and the Trustco Bank in Hoosick Falls have suspended granting new mortgages due to the area being contaminated with toxic chemicals.

Trustco Bank’s treasurer Kevin Timmons, who confirmed the report, says that before lenders can finance home, the property normally must have access to potable water. A standard test for potability includes testing for e-coli and other contaminants, but now perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) must be added to the list, which is the chemical that has been found at dangerous levels in Hoosick Falls’ water supply.

For the homes that are not on the public water supply, the bank requires that their private wells are tested before issuing their mortgage.

A temporary filtration system that will work to remove majority of the PFOA from the village’s water supply is set to be in place by the end of February. This system, along with the permanent filtration system anticipated to be completed in October, are being funded by Saint-Gobain.

Trustco and the Bank of Bennington have claimed that they will resume granting mortgages once the filtration system is in place and the public water supply is safe for cooking and drinking.

Read the full article here.

Residents of Hoosick Falls and other communities who believe they may have been impacted are encouraged to contact us and complete a water contamination contact form.


Stay Involved in Government’s Response to Hoosick Falls Crisis

doh logoAt the direction of New York’s Governor’s office, the state Department of Health (DOH) will maintain a steady presence in Hoosick Falls on a regular schedule, in part to answer any questions residents may have regarding the PFOA contamination of their water.  The DOH will also be able to address the remedial efforts of the state and federal governments, such as a blood testing program and other efforts to assess the extent of the harm caused by PFOA,.

Our clients, and all Hoosick Falls residents, are encouraged to make the most of this opportunity to learn about what the next steps are, and to be heard in the process. Community involvement is critical to a successful response to environmental catastrophes.

See the announcement here.


Good News/Bad News in Hoosick Falls

Residents of Hoosick Falls, New York dealing with the crisis caused by the contamination of their water supply with the dangerous chemical PFOA have recently received some important news.

First, the good news is that on January 13, 2016, the State of New York formally requested the EPA add the Village to its National Priorities List, designating it a Federal “superfund site”.  Two weeks later, Governor Cuomo designated PFOA a “hazardous substance” and named Hoosick Falls a state superfund site.  These actions are good news, in that government agencies are finally acknowledging the dangers of PFOA, and they will eventually result in the government doing what it should have been done a long time ago:  investigate all the sources of PFOA, and document its effects on citizens.  These actions should eventually lead to a comprehensive biomonitoring program and a scientific study of PFOA’s health effects in the Village over recent decades.

However, “superfund” designations can be bad news too:  they bring “stigma” to property, as well as a reduction in value.  Indeed, two banks have already suspended issuing mortgages and refinancing in Hoosick Falls.  A superfund site is also disruptive of community life, and puts demands on citizens as they work together to find long-range solutions.

While the government may answer the many questions facing Hoosick Falls, it cannot remedy or compensate for the harm and damages residents have suffered and continue to suffer.  Those remedies, most likely, will only be found in a courtroom.   Williams Cuker Berezofsky and Faraci & Lange continue to investigate bringing a lawsuit to seek those remedies.

In the meantime, we continue to advise:

  • make your voice heard in decisions the government makes about its investigation;
  • get your blood tested as soon as the Department of Health makes the test for PFOA available;
  • if you have a private well, get it tested now; and
  • contact us with any questions you have regarding your rights.

Governor Cuomo’s Administration To Declare Hoosick Falls a Superfund Site

hoosick fallsDuring a press conference on Wednesday, Cuomo Administration officials announced that the state will declare the polluted water of Hoosick Falls a Superfund site, allowing the state to investigate the extent of any contamination and to begin remediation immediately.

The Department of Environmental Conservation on Wednesday issued an emergency regulation that will allow the state to list perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been linked to cancer and may have polluted the Hoosick Falls water supply, as a hazardous substance.

The Department of Health will initiate a health-risk analysis, install filtration systems at schools and other community gathering places and develop a state telephone hotline for health information, state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said at the conference. Blood testing of community members will begin in mid-February.

Zucker said the state will also revise the level of PFOA in water that it considers safe. The state currently considers a PFOA level in water safe as long as it is below 50,000 parts per trillion. That number is dramatically above the federal recommendation of 400 parts per trillion. Zucker said the state will set a new level within the next few weeks.

Residents of Hoosick Falls, a Rensselaer County community, first raised questions about the polluted water more than a year ago, when the village began to see elevated levels of unusual types of cancers and other medical conditions consistent with unhealthy PFOA levels. State officials learned about the pollution in late 2014, but did not conduct testing until July 2015, Zucker acknowledged.

Shortly after being informed of the situation this fall, the EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck took prompt action and federal regulators issued the warning about drinking.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and administration officials met with town officials shortly before Wednesday’s press conference.

“These actions will ensure that the source and extent of PFOA contamination is identified, and all necessary steps are taken to swiftly address the chemical’s presence,” Cuomo said in a statement. “My administration is investigating this situation fully, and we will do whatever is necessary to ensure safe, clean drinking water for local residents.”

For decades, the Saint-Gobain factory in Hoosick Falls produced Teflon-coated materials that the EPA says may have polluted the village water supply with PFOA, a toxic chemical that is used in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and packaging. The EPA is investigating whether that chemical may have seeped into village wells when workers cleaned smokestack filters and other equipment at the factory, which Saint-Gobain has owned since 1999. Other factories in town may also used the chemical and its exact source has not yet been pinpointed.

The state’s inaction for more than a year caused more people to be exposed to PFOA, said Michael Hickey, a town resident who used his own money to discover the PFOA levels in the town’s water. After his father’s death from cancer, Hickey took his own water samples from sources around town and sent them to a lab out of state that confirmed elevated levels of PFOA.

Read the full article here.

Faraci Lange is currently investigating bringing a lawsuit against one or more companies believed to be responsible for the cancers and other illnesses caused by this PFOA water contamination in Hoosick Falls.

Residents of Hoosick Falls and other communities who believe they may have been impacted are encouraged to contact Stephen G. Schwarz at (585) 325-5150 or to complete a water contamination contact form. You may also contact us here.


No Easy Answers for Hoosick Falls Water Problem

In December, more than a year after government officials knew that toxic levels of PFOA had tainted the Village water supplies, Hoosick Falls residents learned that their drinking water was contaminated. Since then, residents have grappled with the knowledge that they have been exposed to a toxic chemical capable of causing multiple health problems.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that PFOA is toxic. It poses potential adverse effects to human health and because it does not break down easily, is persistent in the environment.

At a meeting on Thursday, January 14 at the Central School, organized in response to the concerns of the Hoosick Falls community, the EPA, Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Conservation presented information about the PFOA contaminated water and answered questions from residents. The health and environmental agencies advised residents:

  • Do not drink, brush your teeth, or use the water from the Hoosick Falls public water supply for cooking;
  • Children and people with skin conditions or abrasions should not expose their skin to the water;
  • Minimize inhalation of water from showering or bathing;
  • Do not use the water for humidifiers; and
  • If you have a private well, contact the NY State Dept of Health to have it tested. Contact Albert DeMarco at 518 402-7860 or e-mail beei@health.ny.gov

Some important questions, such as how long residents have been exposed, and how long they will be without an untainted water supply, went unanswered.

For more information on testing, your legal rights, potential claims and more, fill out this questionnaire and request for information and “print to PDF” and save to file to send via email to:

gwilliams@wcblegal.com

or print to send by U.S. Mail to:

Williams Cuker Berezofsky

1515 Market Street, Suite 1300

Philadelphia, PA 19102

Hoosick Falls Resident Questionnaire – Contact Form.

The Department of Health is planning blood testing for exposed residents and a community meeting to discuss this will be announced soon. “Like” the Williams Cuker Berezofsky Facebook page to stay informed about testing, meetings, and more.