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.
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.
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.
Taconic Inc., a local manufacturer, has officially claimed responsibility for the PFOA water contamination in the public and private town water supply of Petersburgh, New York.
A news release from Taconic stated that the company has voluntarily entered into a consent order with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation in order to address the PFOA water contamination surrounding its plant on Coon Brook Road.
“Taconic remains committed to continued cooperation with the [DEC and] the town of Petersburgh, as well as its partnership with Rensselaer County,” the release reads.
Company officials say that Taconic has already taken steps to address the PFOA contamination by installing treatment systems for 65 homes and businesses in Petersburgh, supplying bottled waters for town residents, and working on a treatment system for the town’s municipal water system.
A State Senate committee held a daylong hearing in Hoosick Falls this week to address the PFOA water contamination issue that has been affecting residents for months.
Michael Hickey, a Hoosick Falls lifelong resident who was one of the first to bring attention to the town’s contaminated water, spoke at the hearing about how he discovered a connection between the death of his father from kidney cancer and the toxic chemical Teflon.
Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
“All I typed in was Teflon and cancer, because that’s what was in the factory that was in Hoosick Falls where my father worked,” stated Hickey at the Tuesday hearing.
Although it only took Hickey “about five minutes,” it took government officials much longer to notice the contamination, or to take action.
Only in recent months has the gravity of this issue come to light as researchers found that the town’s public water supply was tainted with high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which is used in several products as well as in the production of Teflon.
State officials have identified the source of the contamination as the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant.
Several nearby towns in New York as well as in Vermont have also reported high levels of PFOA since then.
Dr. Marcus Martinez, a local physician, had also testified alongside Hickey stating he had long noted what he believed to be unusually high rates of cancer in the village. He said that he and Hickey had brought their concerns, as well as test results, to the attention of village and state officials in 2014, but had been disappointed by a lack of action.
“I do believe our citizens were advised incorrectly to consume water that was unsafe for at least for 12 months,” Dr. Martinez said.
On August 8th the Rensselaer County Department of Health released a statement to the Town of Petersburgh residents that a leak had been identified in the water system that required the activation of Well #2, a well that tested above the federal PFOA advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.
The EPA had recently established a health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA.
Consequently, residents were advised by the county and state Departments of Health to continue to, or in some cases revert back to, using bottled water for drinking, cooking, and preparing baby formula.
Bottled water has been made available at the Petersburgh Town Hall while the Departments of Health “work with the Town to correct this situation including the installation of a permanent water treatment system for the municipal supply.”
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Health held a meeting last week to provide Hoosick Falls’ residents with a status update on the PFOA water contamination in the town.
After conducting almost three thousand blood tests in Hoosick Falls, the exposure of the contamination is more clear.
It was found that individuals who use Hoosick Falls village water have, “30 times the amount of PFOA in their blood than the average American.”
It can take anywhere between two to four years for PFOA levels to decrease in the blood system by half.
Those affected are advised to contact a physician after receiving their blood test results as many of the potential side effects of PFOA exposure are treatable.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of New York issued an order today appointing the Law Firms of Faraci Lange and Weitz & Luxenberg as Co-Lead Interim Class Counsel in the Hoosick Falls water contamination lawsuit.
The order also granted requests to consolidate four similar claims alleging that Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International caused the groundwater in Hoosick Falls to be contaminated with the hazardous chemical, PFOA.
Plaintiffs claim that the contamination caused residents to be subjected to numerous health issues as well as devaluation of their property in the area.
After considering several competing proposals for appointment of interim class counsel, the court decided in favor of the Faraci Lage and Weitz & Luxenberg group, citing their, “…extensive experience in mass tort litigation in general, as well as specific experience in water contamination class actions in New York State.”
The order also noted the active involvement of both law firms in identifying and investigating potential claims since the earliest possible stage of the contamination in Hoosick Falls, as well as “conducting meetings, advising residents, and consulting with experts.”
Faraci Lange and Weitz & Luxenberg has met with over 1000 residents and has been retained by approximately 700 clients at the time of the Court’s initial hearing in June.
Attorneys Stephen Schwarz and Hadley Matarazzo at Faraci Lange, as well as Robin Greenwald at Weitz & Luxenberg, represent the plaintiffs as co-lead counsel in the Hoosick Falls lawsuit.