HOOSICK FALLS, NY >> Two local lenders say they could resume issuing new mortgages on village homes when the public water supply is deemed safe to drink.
The Bank of Bennington and Trustco Bank were two lenders reported to have stopped giving mortgages to home buyers in the village, where federal officials have told residents not to drink or cook with the water. But both banks are clarifying their position in light of recent news reports.
Trustco Bank Treasurer Kevin Timmons confirmed the institution is currently not writing new mortgages for any home on the village's public water supply.
Timmons said lenders normally require homes have access to potable water before they finance a home. Under normal circumstances, a test for potability requires checking for e coli and other contaminants, he said.
But Hoosick Falls' water supply contains elevated levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The man-made chemical was once used in manufacturing nonstick coating and has been linked to cancers, but regulators don't usually require municipalities test for it. Citing elevated levels and emerging science on the chemical, the EPA says residents shouldn't drink or cook with the water and should limit exposure while bathing.
"It's the first time we've encountered something like this," Timmons said. "When you have water for an entire town with a specific contaminant, you have to add that to the test."
For homes not on public water, Trustco is requiring private wells be tested for elevated PFOA levels before issuing a mortgage.
Timmons said, based on a recent conversation he had with Mayor David Borge, he believes a new, "temporary" filtration system meant to remove most of the PFOA from the public water supply will be online by the end of February. He said as far as he knows , the bank would resume issuing mortgages once the filtration system is online and the municipal water supply is deemed safe for cooking and drinking.
A "permanent" system at the water treatment plant is expected to be completed in October. Both systems are being funded by Saint-Gobain, the current owner of the McCaffrey Street site where PFOA is believed to have been released into the groundwater.
A news item on the Bank of Bennington website states the bank wanted to clarify news reports saying the institution is not doing mortgages in the Hoosick Falls area.
"We are still considering mortgages but will require that the water source be safe for drinking," the clarification states. "Unfortunately that means any properties on the municipal water system will not qualify until the filtration systems are in and tested. The bank stands ready to help the community and residents in any way we can."
"We're hoping we can get back to lending in the area soon," Timmons said. "Lending is our prime business and we're anxious to make loans."
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979