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Village Of Hoosick Falls Tables Settlement Agreement

Lucas Willard

The Village of Hoosick Falls voted last night to table a settlement agreement with the two companies deemed responsible for contaminating water sources with the chemical PFOA. The decision to set the agreement aside for now came after two hours of public comment. 

Hoosick Falls Mayor David Borge opened Thursday night’s meeting by recapping the story of the village’s struggles with clean water over the past two years.

After state and federal officials stepped in last year, a temporary filtration system was installed on the public water supply and a permanent system is readying for launch. Filters have been installed on wells in surrounding homes.

For months, village tap water has been PFOA-free. A settlement agreement with companies Saint-Gobain and Honeywell would have reimbursed the village for $850,000 in costs incurred in its response.

But the plan was not met warmly by local residents.

First to comment at the meeting was David Engel, an attorney who spoke on behalf of the Healthy Hoosick Water group.

Engel warned board members about the language in the settlement document.

“The settlement would bar any further recovery by the village for damages to its current water system. The settlement should be limited to the costs incurred up to the present time and no more, and any release should be commensurate with that limited degree of compensation,” said Engel.

Engel submitted a five-page letter detailing his concerns.

The settlement as written covers out-of-pocket expenses to the village, including lost revenues due to decreased use of the public system. It also covers more than $300,000 in legal fees, $100,000 for a communication firm, and $100,000 for an engineering firm.

A myriad of other costs are covered in the voluntary consent order between the state and the companies. The agreement also includes language that would bar the village from filing future suits against the companies.

As the comments kept coming, some expressed a lack of trust in their village leaders. Resident Laura Peabody…

“Think about it. Look how many people have showed up this evening and are asking with you, pleading with you, to do better by this town. So we can trust in you, in our local elected officials.”

Peabody then invited State Senator Kathy Marchione to the microphone. Marchione said as an elected official, she was hesitant to give the village board her input.

“If you want me to take off my State Senator hat, which I can do for a moment, and put on my supervisor hat that I left many moons ago, I would say that some of the things that I heard here gave me a little bit of pause. I would say that if I were sitting in the mayor’s seat, I would probably not make the decision this evening.”

Marchione also took time to defend Mayor Borge against criticisms from the crowd.

The room grew more tense as the night went on. At the end of the comment period, village board member Ben Patton responded to one member in the audience.

“You have no idea what we’ve gone through on this board. You have absolutely no idea. Please by quiet while I’m speaking! You have no idea what we’ve been going through on this board,” said Patton.

Patton continued, saying that given the comments submitted, he could not support the deal.

“The people that are here have spoken. They’ve given us information. And I think it would be imprudent of us to listen to everyone and then vote ‘Yes.’ So from my standpoint, if I had to vote right this second, I would vote no,” said Patton.

With the agreement tabled, discussion will continue at the next regularly scheduled board meeting in February. 

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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