The United States Environmental Protection Agency announced in a news release this week that it has added the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics site in the Village of Hoosick Falls to the Federal Superfund National Priorities List, which includes the nation’s most hazardous waste sites.
The agency’s decision will allow federal resources to be used to clean areas of Hoosick Falls that have been contaminated with PFOA and ensure that the health of village residents is protected.
The EPA’s designation will also allow the federal government to seek reimbursement from the companies that are responsible for the village’s contamination.
New York State Senator Charles Schumer stated, “I am glad that EPA has heeded our call to add this site to the Superfund list because it gives the EPA leverage to make the polluters pay and to set a protocol for investigation and clean-up.”
Since PFOA contamination was discovered in Hoosick Falls, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health, along with the EPA, have taken several steps to address the issue:
In January 2016, the NYSDEC added the Saint-Gobain site to New York State’s Superfund list and requested that the EPA include the site on EPA’s federal Superfund list.
In April and May 2016, the EPA installed monitoring wells to sample groundwater at and around the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility (McCaffrey Street facility) and sampled the Village water supply wells. The EPA also collected soil samples from the McCaffrey Street facility, Village ballfields and recreational areas.
In June 2016, the NYSDEC entered into a legal agreement with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation and Honeywell International Inc. and initiated a study of the nature and extent of contamination at the site.
In September 2016, the EPA proposed adding the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics site to the federal Superfund list.
Faraci Lange attorneys, Stephen Schwarz and Hadley Matarazzo, are representing residents of Hoosick Falls in a lawsuit against Saint-Gobain and Honeywell International for the PFOA contamination their manufacturing plants caused.
“To the extent that it makes more resources available to the community to address the problem, we’re happy to see that happen, Hadley stated to the New York Law Journal.
Groundwater sampling from the Saint Gobain Performance Plastics manufacturing plant on McCaffery Street recorded PFOA levels at 130,000 parts per trillion. This is seven times higher than what was reported three years ago.
Saint Gobain’s Liberty Street site and Honeywell International’s John Street sites were also tested and both were found to be sources of contamination, according to Department of Environmental Conservation officials.
DEC Commissioner, Basil Seggos, states that the discrepancy in test results are due to having a limited number of samplings available in previous reports.
The test samplings included groundwater, soil and sediment, and others. Further investigation will determine the extent of the contamination, what elements are impacted and how widespread the contamination truly is.
Over 100 Village residents were present at the Hoosick Falls Center School to hear the results of the PFOA testing and learn what the next steps would be.
New York State officials, as well as Saint Gobain and Honeywell International representatives, spoke to residents and invited them to ask questions.
State officials also revealed additional sites that will be investigated further as possible sources of contamination, including the Hoosick Falls Landfill, the former Oak-Mitsui on First Street and Allied-Signal Laminate Systems on Mechanic Street.
An initial alternative water supply evaluation is expected to be completed by the fall. Residents will be given the opportunity to review and comment on the proposed plan.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.