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DEC To Close Comment Period On Hoosick Falls Remediation Plan Friday

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

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is taking comments through today on a proposed remedial action for the Rensselaer County Village of Hoosick Falls. It comes more than five years after a do-not-drink order was declared over PFAS contamination in the community’s drinking water.

In April, the DEC released a Proposed Remedial Action Plan for the drinking water supply in Hoosick Falls.

The proposal would develop two test wells south of the village into production wells. It would also retain one existing well as a backup. New water lines would connect the new wells to the village’s water treatment plant, which has been outfitted with a permanent GAC filtration system. The plant and existing GAC treatment system would remain in operation.

The remedial action would be paid for by Saint-Gobain and Honeywell, companies that have been under a state consent order since 2016 over the contamination.

This approach has the backing of the village board, with some modification. Here’s Village Mayor Rob Allen…

“Even though this puts us many steps forward, any remedy that includes us being connected to the currently contaminated aquifer — whether it’s for the primary well or the backup well — it’s not a complete and full remedy. So we’re actually going to request the DEC, while moving forward with the new wells being developed and pumped into the village, that they also search for a third well to either be a primary well or a backup well so that we are completely off the contaminated aquifer,” said Allen.

The option to use groundwater over an outside surface water source, such as the Tomhannock Reservoicer in Pittstown, which is owned by the City of Troy, is preferred by the village board. Allen says connecting to the Tomhannock would bring a lot of unknowns.

“It brings up a lot of questions and concerns about who owns what, who operates what, how much operational maintenance does there have to be to pull water about 12 miles away…”

Members of the Hoosick Area Community Participation Work Group agree.

Brian Bushner is a former village trustee and co-chairs the group. He says he’s changed his mind after once supporting connecting the village to the Tomhannock.

“That was before I really understood a lot of these processes, the way that DEC works, the way that you have to go through the proper channels to make sure the parties responsible are able to be held accountable for it financially, so I learned a lot on that end, but also the more I learned about Tomhannock, the less I wanted to connect to it. So, for example, look at what just happened with Norlite,” Bushner said.

The Norlite facility in Cohoes incinerated PFAS-laden firefighting foam, and concerns about contamination of nearby communities led to Governor Andrew Cuomo signing narrow legislation last November to ban the burning of PFAS at the plant.

Bushner says the burning of PFAS compounds in Cohoes in neighboring Albany County creates a “link” to Hoosick through pollution. He’s worried the full impacts of that burning of chemicals that are persistent in the environment have yet to be seen.

“Where all of what they’ve burned, that fell from the sky somewhere. And eventually, wherever it landed on the ground, it’s going to get into the soil and it could end up in the Tomhannock,” suggested Bushner.

In March of this year, the DEC released the results of a study that said the soil and water surrounding the Norlite facility showed no clear pattern of aerial contamination that could be traced to the plant. Soil samples taken upwind and downwind were reportedly consistent with background levels in the environment.

Loreen Hackett, also a co-chair of the CPWG, wants the GAC filtration system installed on the village water supply to stay. She also prefers the development of new supply wells over connecting to the Tomhannock.

“We’re finding non-detect in our drinking water of any of the PFAS chemicals. Should we lose the GAC filtration systems and there’s any contamination over in the Tomhannock, we’d be drinking it. Right? Plus we didn’t know if there’d be, down the road, if we would have to purchase our water from Troy, just a lot of questions,” said Hackett.

There’s also the factor of timing.

“You’re looking at something like five years for the new well, that are locally, and potentially way longer for the Tomhannock, and that’s providing there’s no snags, that’s providing there’s no easement disputes, providing there’s no suits,” said Hackett.

Some local residents are not convinced, however. During a recent town hall with Congressman Antonio Delgado in Hoosick Falls, the Democrat was approached afterward with some concerns over using groundwater.

Former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Administrator and WAMC Roundtable panelist Judith Enck also disagrees with the approach being proposed by the DEC. Enck, a Rensselaer County resident, has been advocating for the village since her tenure in the EPA.

She says good regulatory decision-making is based on science, and that once PFAS gets into an aquifer, it can cause serious long-term problems – leading to her preference for a new surface water source for the village.

“I don’t have a strong feeling on which reservoir; I do have a strong feeling that we should be looking toward surface water, reservoirs, not ground water as the drinking water source for the people of Hoosick Falls,” said Enck.

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