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Nassau Town Supervisor Urges Vigilance In Hoosick Falls

Lucas Willard

As work continues in the Rensselaer County community of Hoosick Falls to ensure clean drinking water, another town on the other side of the county is grappling with its own contamination problem.

Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, is the chemical that's been found in the drinking water in Hoosick Falls. Present at levels higher than the EPA recommended standard, local residents have been urged not to drink or cook with the water. Some of the highest concentrations of the chemical, thought to be carcinogenic, were found close to the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant in the village of about 3,500.

The company, headquartered in France, has been operating in Hoosick Falls since 1999 inside industrial buildings that have been used for decades. In 2003, the company stopped producing products with PTFE, a chemical that contains PFOA.

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics President and CEO Thomas Kinisky says the company has been a good neighbor to the community. Kinisky this week spoke with NewsChannel 13.

"So what we've been trying to do is just proactively bring solutions to this problem, which is the elevated levels of PFOA in the water. And hopefully, in 2 to 3 weeks, when the new system is online, they'll have that. They'll have clean water."

Saint-Gobain is paying for the temporary water filtration system that is being installed to remove PFOA from the public water supply. A permanent filtration system is set to be installed in October. The company has also been footing the bill for the five daily gallons of bottled water that is being distributed to those affected.

Kinisky, a native of neighboring Saratoga County, says he's committed to the issue.

"When all of the cameras are off, and all of the TV lights are down, and all the microphones go away, we will be here."

Last week, when New York state declared Hoosick Falls a Superfund site, village mayor David Borge was also confident, with the state's assistance, the problem would be solved.

"The fear that people have had and the concern, it's all genuine. Now we have something concrete that we can go forward with and show people that steps are being taken, and we know that this is going to resolve this."

Politicians are weighing in. Local news media is covering the issue daily. The focus on Hoosick Falls has also drawn the attention of David Fleming, supervisor of the town of Nassau.

"You know, I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say I was a little jealous of the attention, in a positive way, that Hoosick is getting. I think it's helpful to really getting things moving," said Fleming.

Nassau is home to its own Superfund site at the Dewey Loeffel landfill. In the 1950s and 60s, the site was a dumping ground for several Capital Region industrial companies.

Everything from scrap material to industrial solvents, oils, and PCBs was dumped at the site.

Hazardous substances have seeped out of the landfill into the groundwater. PCBs have moved downstream, contaminating sediment and fish in nearby Nassau Lake.

In 1980, the Dewey Loeffel site was declared a state Superfund - the same designation just handed to Hoosick Falls. Three decades later, after the state was unable to fully address the problem, the EPA came in at the town's request. In 2011, it was declared a Federal Superfund site.

"So we've been in the Federal Superfund program for five years, and really there hasn't been significant cleanup at the site, still," said Fleming.

Fleming urged residents of Hoosick Falls to keep pressure on their local representatives.

"It's been our experience in Nassau that once bureaucrats are no longer in the spotlight, the work is slow."

With the Superfund declaration in Hoosick Falls, personnel from the State Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health have began blood testing residents for PFOA. 

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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