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Cohoes Tests Water System For PFOA; Water Safe To Drink

PFOA formula

With some neighboring communities grappling with PFOA, one Albany County city has tested its drinking water as a precautionary measure. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports the tests came back safe to drink.

PFOA, an industrial chemical linked to several forms of cancer, has been dominating headlines in communities like Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh in Rensselaer County and Bennington, Vermont.

Amid all of the attention being paid to the chemical that is used in manufacturing non-stick and insulating materials, the city of Cohoes in Albany County tested its water source for the chemical.

Mayor Shawn Morse said he had city residents reach out and ask if the city would test for the chemical.

“It’s always good to let people know that the water we have in Cohoes is safe to drink and there will be no concerns for them or their families’ health,” said Morse.

With testing done by a state certified lab, non-detectable levels of PFOA were found at less than .67 part per trillion. The city says that’s about 44 percent below the minimum standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and safe to drink.

Cohoes shares water with neighboring Green Island. Sean Ward is Executive Assistant to Green Island mayor Ellen McNulty-Ryan.

“We do use Cohoes water as a supplementary source of water for the Village of Green Island and the north end of our community is served by Cohoes water as well. And we’re happy that they were non-detect as well,” said Ward.

Ward says because there is no known source of PFOA contamination nearby, the village does not test for it. In communities where PFOA has been found, such as Hoosick Falls, it’s been linked to industrial and manufacturing sites. He says the village tests its water often to comply with standards set by the county, state, and federal governments.

Mayor Morse said with concerns also circulating around lead, Cohoes also tested for the metal.

“We tested out of 30 different homes right out of the tap spread throughout the city to make sure there’s no problems with lead as well,” said Morse.

The city says levels of copper and lead are “far less” than permitted levels set by New York state.

This week, a group of advocates assembled at the state capitol to call on leaders to enact a five-point action plan to require schools test for lead contamination and remediation.

Tom Brady, Assistant Director of Environmental Services at the Albany County Health Department, says localities are required to test for a wide variety of contaminants.

“Water systems like Cohoes, Green Island, Bethlehem, Latham, all the big ones, have to test for about 200 different chemicals every year. And there’s things like petroleum byproducts, like benzene and toluene, or some of the synthetic organic compounds like herbicide, pesticides, PCBs, those kind of things,” said Brady.

Brady says no municipality in Albany County is mandated to test for PFOA.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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