HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. >> Two more legislative hearings will focus on how officials responded to the local water contamination crisis.
The New York State Assembly has announced it will hold joint hearings with the Senate. Those hearings will be in Albany on Sept. 7 and Long Island on Sept. 12.
Their purpose "is to examine water contamination situations and assess the effectiveness and implementation of laws and public policies in protecting water quality and public health," according to a public hearing notice from the Assembly.
The news comes days after the Senate announced that Aug. 30 will be the date of its own hearings. Those hearings will be in the village, where residents were told late last year not to drink the water because it contained elevated levels of PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid. The potentially harmful, man-made chemical was formerly used when making Teflon products and is linked to cancers of the kidney, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, colitis and other diseases.
Residents have called for hearings and expressed concern over the response by village and town leaders, and officials with county, state and federal health and environmental agencies. Many on social media have been critical of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration. And a U.S. House congressional committee, in letters demanding documents from Cuomo's administration and the EPA, categorized the response at the state and county levels as "sluggish."
Village Mayor David Borge said he plans to participate in the hearings. His hope, "is that these discussions and investigations will result in a process which communities can follow when dealing with contaminants in their public water supplies as well as any other critical situations which may present themselves," he wrote in an email on Tuesday.
Michele Baker, a village resident who has long called for legislative hearings and been vocal about the response by Cuomo and others, said she's "cautiously optimistic."
She noted PFOA has been found in more communities including nearby Petersburgh, the city of Newburgh, and most recently, Eagle Bridge and White Creek. Baker said in the future, when contamination is suspected in communities, officials should not hesitate to take precautions and listen to residents' concerns.
"They swept it under the rug from the local level to the state," Baker said. "You can't do that when we're talking about the basic necessities like drinking water. It's just absurd we knew something was wrong and no one acted. And now, we're feeling the reaction from that."
The joint hearing in Albany will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 11 a.m. at the legislative office building's hearing Room B, second floor. The Long Island hearing will be held on Monday, Sept. 12 at 11 a.m. at the legislative auditorium in the William H. Rogers Building, 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, Smithtown.
The joint hearings will be overseen by the Senate and Assembly's committees on health and environmental conservation. It was unclear how the Senate hearings and joint Assembly-Senate hearings are different. A spokesperson for the Assembly did not return a call by Tuesday's deadline.
Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.