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Public Meeting Tonight In Poestenkill After Discovery Of PFOA In Drinking Water


A community meeting on the latest discovery of PFOA in drinking water is set for tonight in Rensselaer County.

In early January, a test of the Averill Park Central School District water supplies found the Algonquin Middle School had levels of PFOA above 10 parts per trillion. Water fountains were shut down and bottled water was provided for drinking, cooking, and dishwashing. Since then the district says it has worked closely with the county, the state Education Department and Town of Poestenkill to develop a plan to address the contamination.

Former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck says PFOA is the same chemical that was found in the Hoosick Falls and Petersburg, New York and Bennington, Vermont drinking water.

"Fortunately wage levels are not nearly as high as what was founded Hoosick Falls, but unfortunately these levels do exceed the New York State drinking water standard."

Officials say well samples collected in mid-August found elevated levels of PFOS at two homes near the school, and a second round of sampling is set to begin this week.

Susan Edwards, of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Environmental Remediation, says a source of the contamination has not yet been determined.

“We do know that there are a couple industrial facilities around the area, around the school. We are taking a closer look, but at this point in time there is no obvious source that is leading to these low-levels of contamination that are found in the Algonquin Middle School wells or in the private wells,” said Edwards.

Enck, Visiting Professor at Bennington College and President of Beyond Plastics, says although the State Health Department, the Rensselaer County Health Department and the DEC have been working on the problem, the testing process has been a rather lengthy one. Tonight's community meeting starts at 7 at the Poestenkill VFW.

"One of the topics will be how to get everyone private well tested, and what are the next steps to deal with the contamination at the school. As soon as the school district learned of this contamination, they shut off the water supply for students and staff. They now have to decide what the long-term solution is there. So members of the public are urged to attend this important meeting. We know that when citizens get involved and active wage issue of drinking water contamination the agencies tend to respond more comprehensively and more quickly."

The Town of Poestenkill purchases its water from the city of Troy, sourced from the Tomhannock reservoir in the town of Pittstown. Officials have suggested the school district consider connecting to that supply.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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