Water hearings set for Aug. 30 in Hoosick Falls, NY

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HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. >> The State Senate has set Aug. 30 for a local hearing on how state and federal officials handled the water contamination issue.

The Senate announced the first hearing's date on Friday, a month after it said hearings would happen.

The hearing will be held at the Hoosick Falls Central School beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug 30. Government officials, health experts and legislators will speak.

The public will be able to speak at some point during the hearing. Those who want to speak are being told to contact Senate Health Committee clerk Darlene Murray at dmurray@nysenate.gov or 518-455-2200.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan announced on July 8 that hearings would be held. At the time, Flanagan said the first hearing would be held in Hoosick Falls.

The hearings will "explore the sources of water contamination, examine state and federal oversight issues, and determine how we can prevent this from happening in the future," Flanagan said in a statement last month.

That announcement was made the same day U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand made a high-profile visit at the Hoosick Falls school. The Democrat and county resident called for a ban on PFOA and related chemicals, stricter regulations on hazardous chemicals, and health studies for residents of communities facing water contamination.

Two days before, the State Assembly had announced it would hold public hearings in both Albany and Suffolk Counties. They're expected in early September, but no exact date has been announced.

Village residents couldn't drink from the public water supply for four months after the EPA cautioned them about PFOA, a man-made chemical once used in the production of Teflon-coated cookware, tapes, foams and fabric. Known as perfluorooctanoic acid. It's been linked to cancers and other diseases. Regionally, it's turned up in drinking water supplies in nearby Petersburgh and White Creek, and Vermont communities of Pownal and Bennington.

Hoosick Falls officials, prompted by concerned residents, tested the village public water system for PFOA in the summer of 2014. Tests found levels of PFOA, an "emerging contaminant," above the federal guideline.

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics conducted its own testing and, in December 2014, notified the agency in about PFOA in groundwater at its McCaffrey Street facility.

County and state agencies didn't issue a health advisory until after

EPA Regional Director Judith Enck wrote to village officials in late November 2015 and advised residents not use the water for drinking and cooking.

Residents and lawmakers have called for hearings over the officials' response to the contamination. Residents have been vocal at public meetings and on social media. They've have also criticized Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration, saying the response was slow. A U.S. House congressional committee demanded documents from Cuomo's administration and the EPA on July 6. Two letters to Cuomo and the EPA takes issue with information fact sheets provided at public meetings and seeks "information as to why the state and county delayed in acknowledging the health risks... and continued to provide the public with false and confusing information."

Cuomo has defended his administration and highlighted EPA and state environmental officials' actions.

Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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