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Advocates Mark 500 Days Of Water Contamination In Hoosick Falls

The Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility on McCaffrey Street in Hoosick Falls
Lucas Willard

Marking 500 days of water contamination in Hoosick Falls, residents gathered at the state capitol on Thursday to pressure state leaders to find a new, uncontaminated source.

Organized by Environmental Advocates of New York, residents of the Rensselaer County community of Hoosick Falls traveled to Albany Thursday to demand drinking water free of the chemical PFOA, a carcinogen.

They’d like to see the newly created $2.5 billion clean water fund in the state budget used to restore clean water now.

Pressuring the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, EANY’s Water and Natural Resources Associate Liz Moran said every day that Hoosick Falls residents are relying on filtered water, they’re still afraid.

“I think the DEC and the state have done some good work in response to Hoosick Falls. But the clock is ticking,” said Moran.

The Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health have faced tough criticism over the past year-and-a-half for what many perceived as a delayed response to the contamination crisis.

To date, the state has installed more than 800 point-of-entry treatment systems on private wells to remove PFOA from contaminated groundwater. A permanent filtration system has been installed on the Hoosick Falls municipal water supply, paid for by company Saint-Gobain, under consent-order from the state, which has declared Hoosick Falls a Superfund site.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos tells WAMC the state is still pushing for a clean water source.

“We want to see a long-term solution to this where we’re providing clean water uncontaminated with PFOA to the village. But certainly, in the interim, we’re making sure this treatment system is 100 percent effective,” said Seggos.

Moran said she was pleased that DEC will soon announce the results of a feasibility study on locating a new water source. 

Seggos said under consent orders with the state, Saint-Gobain and company Honeywelll are now under edict to carry out the feasibility study. Seggos expected results to be released this summer.

“Some positively preliminary news coming out of it: We’re looking at a few spots in the valley where enough water is being produced, at least water quality is good in a couple different wells that have been drilled. And we’re doing continual tests on that to make sure there’s enough water pressure and capacity,” said Seggos.

Once that report is released it will be made available for review by the public.

Advocates are also calling on state leaders to announce the members of a Drinking Water Quality Council, created in response to the Hoosick Falls crisis to help establish water contamination standards for New York.

Seggos said DEC and DOH will be announcing members of the council “very shortly.” Moran says EANY and residents will continue to hold state agencies accountable.

“I think these are very positive steps. And that’s exactly what we want to see. We want to make sure that there’s enough funding there so that everyone in these communities can have access to this new clean drinking water source, and that there’s open communication between DEC and residents,” said Moran.

Seggos says DEC’s doors are open.

“We’ve been a fixture in the community since Day 1 and we don’t intend to go anywhere until the job is done. We certainly encourage all residents and anyone interested to keep an open line of communication with us,” said Seggos.

Last week the state announced a carbon filtration system installed on the nearby town of Petersburgh's water supply was up and running to remove PFOA.

The filtration system was installed by company Taconic working with DOH and DEC.

Just over the state line in Vermont, state leaders are negotiating with Saint-Gobain to bring clean municipal water to homes in Bennington and North Bennington with wells contaminated with 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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