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Petersburgh Approves PFOA Settlement For Past Costs

Lucas Willard

The Rensselaer County town of Petersburgh has been struggling with PFOA, the same carcinogenic pollutant that has been found in nearby Hoosick Falls and Bennington, Vermont. The town approved a settlement agreement with the polluter Tuesday night.

The Town of Petersburgh found out last year that its municipal water system was tainted with PFOA. The chemical has been linked to the company Taconic’s plant in town.

Like with Saint-Gobain and Honeywell in nearby Hoosick Falls, Taconic has entered a consent order with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. That agreement required Taconic to install and maintain a filtration system on the municipal water supply as well as some private wells.

Over the past eight months, Petersburgh has been working on its own settlement to reimburse the town for costs related to the PFOA issue.

Board members gathered Tuesday night to approve the roughly $35,000 agreement that includes employee wages, legal fees, and an engineering study incurred through December 2016.

Before the board voted on the proposal there were a couple concerned voices in the small audience, like Petersburgh resident Joe Dunlop.

“If the cost is $35,000 I think the town can eat that for another year and we can table this and wait another year,” said Dunlop. 

Dunlop, like others, saw the raucous meeting in Hoosick Falls the night before where residents pushed the village board to table a $1 million revised settlement with Saint-Gobain and Honeywell.

But unlike in Hoosick Falls, the settlement agreement in Petersburgh does not give up any legal rights for the town to pursue future reimbursements for the contaminated water system.

The document in Hoosick Falls drew sharp rebuke from well-known names including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck.

“This is a really good deal for Saint-Gobain. This is a really good deal for Honeywell. But this is not quality document that you should be signing tonight on behalf of the residents of Hoosick Falls,” said Enck to applause in Hoosick Falls.

Back in Petersburgh, environmental attorney Kevin Young asked Dunlop to view the settlement as an “interim payment.”

“In other words, going forward Taconic has to pay for the operation and maintenance of that treatment system. And so as we incur costs we are going to be billing them for those costs,” said Young.

After brief discussion the settlement was passed.

Town Supervisor Alan Webster says more costs will be coming. He said future problems could include well issues and getting a maximum flow to activate the filtration system.

“There’s always things that can come up. And we’re just not going to close any of those doors,” said Webster.

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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