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Gillibrand Attends PFOA Panel In Hoosick Falls

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was in Hoosick Falls, New York Friday to hear from families affected by chemically-contaminated water.

Inside the Hoosick Falls High School auditorium, Gillibrand sat on a panel that included residents of Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh, as well as representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

To cheers from the audience, the New York Democrat said she would fight to ban the chemical PFOA that has been found in local water supplies.

“The only reason a hearing makes a difference is because we need the Federal government, state governments across the country to respond. We need to ban PFOA as a chemical, period. It needs to be banned,” said Gillibrand.

The Democrat also said she would use the newly updated Toxic Substances Control Act to regulate the chemical.

“I’m asking specifically to have PFOA be one of the first chemicals tested under the TOSCA to say 'Is it safe or not?' because we need answers. We don't have answers," said Gillibrand.

Gillibrand said she would push for medical monitoring for those affected by the chemical, which has been linked to ill-health effects including cancer.

Shortly after the meeting began, panel member Michael Hickey, who has been credited with first testing his own water for PFOA in the summer of 2014, suggested that hearings into state government’s response would not be effective.

“In my opinion, we really don’t need hearings. It was pretty simple to see where the ball was dropped,” said Hickey.

Hickey did say, however, that hearings would be helpful for others.

Hickey’s statement apparently angered several audience members, some of which stormed out.

Standing outside, Hoosick Falls resident Silvia Potter said the meeting, which mainly focused on the personal stories of affected residents, was not what she expected to hear.

“We certainly do not need an explanation as to what PFOA is. By this point, any one of us can give a lecture on that. So no, they are buying up time. I have the impression that this is a pacifying action.”

Potter had hoped the Senator and panel members would take more questions from the audience. The Hoosick Falls School District said afterward that it would forward any unanswered questions to the Senator’s office.

At the same meeting state Senator Kathy Marchione announced that the Senate would hold investigative hearings on contaminated water, the first of which will be held in Hoosick Falls this August.

“In the past, what I’ve said is that we’re going to focus on real results. What I’m telling you know is we’re still focusing on real results, but we’re also going to have a hearing. We’re going to have hearings, the first of which will be here in Hoosick Falls,” said Marchione. 

The Assembly announced this week that it would hold hearings in September. Meanwhile, a federal probe has been launched by a House task force into state government’s response to the crisis.

Michele Baker, who has been an outspoken advocate for hearings, welcomed the news.

“We now have both houses of New York State. We have a federal investigation probe and we moms don’t stop until we can make sure that our children’s healths are protected,” said Baker.

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