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DEC Addresses Hoosick Filtration Issue

Lucas Willard

New York state officials say they’re addressing a misstep in the installation of water filtration systems in the Town of Hoosick, where residents are grappling with contaminated drinking water. Meanwhile, work continues to restore clean water within the Village of Hoosick Falls.

The State Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation have been on the ground in Hoosick and the Village of Hoosick Falls for weeks, since the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics site on McCaffrey Street was declared a state Superfund site in late January.

The village water system and a number of private wells have tested positive for PFOA, a chemical used as a component of PTFE, more commonly known as Teflon. The chemical has been linked to the McCaffrey Street plant, home to a number of tenants throughout the decades.

On Wednesday, mayor David Borge said the temporary filtration system installed on the village water system, paid for by Saint-Gobain, is flushing water lines and is ahead of schedule.

“Once all the outlying areas, if you well, of the village are completed – we hope that will happen within the next couple of days – then we will look to DOH to start the sampling process. That’s going to be a very complex and repetitive process with lots of samples being taken. And once we get the results of those samples, I’m very confident that DOH will be able to verify that the system is working and working effectively, and the water will be good to drink and good to cook.”

Until informed that it’s OK to flush their homes, village residents are still asked to drink and cook with bottled water.

On Friday, the DEC and DOH provided an update on the ongoing actions to address the contamination. Five of six zones within the village have been flushed.

Meanwhile, work continues to install filtration systems on private wells in the Town of Hoosick. At the end of last week, more than 190 systems were installed. As of Friday, 298 wells have been tested for PFOA. 49 have shown levels above the 100 ppt threshold. 123 tested did not show a presence of the chemical. That testing will continue and filtration systems are being made available for anyone with concerns. 

But it appears the rollout of the filtration systems has hit a snag. DEC confirmed to WAMC Wednesday morning that a supplier incorrectly shipped a box of valves that are not to be used for drinking water to contractors on the ground.

In a statement, the agency said “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.”

DEC maintains that the filtration systems in question have not been used, as the state has not advised homeowners to use them.

The mishap has been criticized by local Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin. A Republican and frequent critic of the Cuomo administration, McLaughlin tweeted a photo Tuesday night of one of the incorrect valves that reads “It is illegal to use this product for Potable water services.”

Just informed of the valve issue, Hoosick supervisor Mark Surdam says he’s otherwise been pleased with the state’s operations in town.

“Very well organized, very well run. The couple of phone calls I’ve made over there, they’ve been very responsive. I think it’s a good operation.”

Meanwhile, environmental law firm Weitz & Luxenberg and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich are expanding their investigation into PFOA contaminated water to Merrimack, New Hampshire. The team is also investigating the chemical that has been found in North Bennington, Vermont and Petersburgh, New York.

The firm has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the past and present tenants of the McCaffrey street facility including Saint-Gobain and Honeywell International.

On Tuesday, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin visited those affected by the contamination linked to the former Chemfab facility in North Bennington.

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