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Additional Superfund Sites May Be Declared In Hoosick Falls

Lucas Willard

The Rensselaer County Village of Hoosick Falls, already dealing with a State Superfund site contaminated with the chemical PFOA, may soon add other locations to the list.

Hoosick Falls Mayor Rob Allen, elected in March, welcomed residents to the Hoosick Falls Central School auditorium Monday evening, even if it probably wasn’t the place everyone wanted to be.

“It’s kind of similar to going to the doctor’s to…you know you have some bad news and you just have to figure out how bad it is and some of it will be good and some of it will be bad,” said Allen. “And we just have to just sort of understand, this is where we’re at. And we have to know where we’re at to know what’s coming next.”

Representatives from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and companies Saint-Gobain and Honeywell presented new information on sites contaminated with the chemical PFOA and other compounds.

Chemical concentrations were given for soil, groundwater, and other substances as the investigations expand across the Rensselaer County community.

Last year, the facility owned by company Saint-Gobain on McCaffrey Street, where PFOA was used in manufacturing, was declared a New York State Superfund.

Dan Reilly, with Saint-Gobain contractor C.T. Male, presented the latest groundwater numbers gathered at McCaffrey Street. 

“The range of PFOA in those samples ranges from non-detect to 130,000 parts per trillion. The primary range of that is from non-detect to 27,000,” said Reilly.

There is no federal or state guidance level for PFOA in groundwater, but experts say the numbers are alarming. In drinking water the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s guidance level is 70 ppt. Same goes for New York state. In neighboring Vermont, the drinking water guidance level is 20 parts per trillion.

The Saint-Gobain site at Liberty Street showed its highest PFOA groundwater concentration at 48,000 ppt. The concentrations are the highest reported to date.

Honeywell is investigating sites where it used to operate on John Street in Hoosick Falls and River Road in the Town of Hoosick.

On John Street, in addition to elevated PFOA levels, Volatile Organic Compounds referred to as TCE and 1,1,1 TCA have been detected. Nine of 19 surrounding properties have tested for elevated VOCs and will require remediation.

DEC is also taking a closer look at sites on First Street and Mechanic Street. The Hoosick Falls landfill is also being investigated.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos says as investigations continue, additional Superfund sites may be declared.

“We started with started with one site a year and a half ago. And now we’ve got maybe six sites. And that’s all because we’ve gotten tips from people locally, our own sampling in the river and elsewhere has shown that there are causes for concern so we move towards those sources. And we’ll come back here to explain that to the communities as often as we can,” said Seggos.

None of the sites have yet been classified as a federal Superfund site, though calls to do so have come from top elected officials.

County resident and Former EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, who warned locals a year and a half ago to not drink or cook with contaminated water, before carbon filtration systems were added to the village water supply and private wells, said a federal Superfund declaration is critical.

“So I think it’s absolutely crucial for Administrator Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA, to make a timely decision. All of the testing data indicates that this ranks as a federal Superfund, meaning the contamination is significant enough. And that was before we heard about 130,000 and 48,000 parts per trillion,” said Enck.

Enck added that the Hoosick Falls numbers are among the highest concentrations she’s seen anywhere.

DEC began working with the U.S. Geological Survey in the summer of 2016 to study groundwater in the region with hopes of locating a new, uncontaminated water supply for the village. A report is still in the works.

After the formal presentation Monday, residents were able to ask questions of representatives from the companies, DEC and the state Department of Health. 

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