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DEC releases final plan for new Hoosick Falls water source

A map of Hoosick Falls remediation sites
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
A map of Hoosick Falls remediation sites

New York State has released a final plan for a permanent drinking water source in Hoosick Falls to address PFAS contamination in the Rensselaer County village’s water supply.

Last Friday, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released its plan to address the contamination first independently confirmed by a resident in 2014, and what led to the declaration of a Superfund site in 2016.

The DEC plan would develop two new groundwater supply wells and convert existing test wells south of Hoosick Falls into production wells. One current well would be retained in case of a primary outage.

A transmission line from the new wells to the village water treatment plant along public rights of way would be built. And a permanent filtration system installed on the village water supply would continue to operate.

In a statement, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos called the announcement a “significant milestone” and said the agency couldn’t have done its work without the participation of Village Mayor Rob Allen and the “dedicated members” of the Hoosick Area Community Participation Work Group.

CPWG co-chair Brian Bushner is a Town of Hoosick resident who also served on the Hoosick Falls Village Board during the water crisis.

“This gives us, finally, the first real steps towards closure. Because this whole issue has been a giant wound to our community. It’s been a lot of what-ifs. And actually seeing the end is near of the problem is really refreshing, and also, it’s a relief because now we know, ‘Alright, the solution is coming. We can see it, it’s on the horizon. We’re finally, finally going to get through this.’”

Hoosick Falls Mayor Rob Allen in a statement said he was grateful, but added the community will continue to remain focused on work that needs to be done, and to ensure that the water supply will be protected against future contamination.

Allen’s statement continues in part:

“Investigation and remediation will continue, and we will continue to take the view that an additional well drawing on the new uncontaminated source should be developed to serve as a backup to the new wells.”

The Village and CPWG agreed to the plan announced by DEC, rejecting other options that had been pitched, one notably being the extension of water lines from the City of Troy’s Tomhannock Reservoir in Pittstown. The reservoir is about 12 miles away from Hoosick Falls as the crow flies.

Loreen Hackett, a CPWG co-chair who became an outspoken advocate during the PFAS crisis, explained why she supports the DEC plan.

“I would think, to a lot of it, is timing. It would take a lot less time to keep the new well sites closer to the village. Something like the Tomhannock, Lord knows how that would have taken, given the distance and easements, and all of that.”

Meantime, Hackett and others awaiting Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature on a bill that would require testing of water supplies for PFAS chemicals. The bill passed by the Senate and Assembly earlier this year would require statewide testing for 40 so-called emerging contaminants, including several PFAS compounds.

“What’s the reason for the holdup? Why would you not want to be as health protective of our drinking water as humanly possible? It doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Hackett.

Companies linked to the contamination, Saint-Gobain, Honeywell and 3M, agreed to a $65 million settlement with area residents earlier this year.

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