Congress Leads Inquiry into Hoosick Falls Contamination
July 20, 2016 | Environmental Litigation
Recent controversial discoveries regarding the Hoosick Falls, NY public water contamination law suit have brought to question the manner in which the state and federal government chose to deal with rectifying the issue. The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent letters Wednesday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency demanding documents for the pending congressional probe into the water pollution. Subsequently, the investigation found it was apparent that officials at all levels of government were aware for more than a year that a hazardous chemical, PFOA, had contaminated the Rensselaer County water system. However, residents were never warned to stop consuming from the villages public and private water supply.
Evidence from email threads dating back to December 2014 revealed that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) was informed of the water pollution, yet failed to pass this information on to the public. In December 2015, Hoosick Falls David Borge was advised by Environmental and Health agencies to stop telling the residents it was a “personal choice” to drink the contaminated water as he was relying on “fact sheets” that apparently stated no adverse health effects were expected from normal use of the village’s water. Residents were issued the same fact sheets that same month.
Despite an extensively reported health study that clearly links PFOA, the same chemical appearing in the village’s water supply, to kidney cancer and multiple other diseases, the State Health Department remained silent. Not only was this a recent discovery, but also in 2009 an advisory was released warning that short-term exposure to water containing levels of PFOA above 400 parts per trillion is not safe. Yet, the Hoosick Falls’ water system recorded levels at more than 600 ppt.
PFOA is a toxic chemical that has been used since the 1940s to make industrial and household products such as nonstick coatings, specialty tapes and heat-resistant wiring. Several specialty manufacturing plants in eastern Rensselaer County and North Bennington, Vt., used the chemical for decades before studies emerged 10 years ago linking the substance to cancer and other serious diseases.
The effects were studied and shown in both lab animal tests and large human popular surveys and the results showed that being exposed to larger levels of PFOA over a longer period of time can cause:
- Cancer– mainly testicular and kidney cancer though others could also be made worse
- Pregnancy Problems – premature birth, low birth rate, blood pressure issues, and more
- Liver damage– accumulation of PFOA in the blood can cause damage to filtering kidneys
- Thyroid disease– delicate balance of the thyroid’s hormone regulation can be impacted
- Ulcerative colitis– digestive issues are also now being connected to PFOA poisoning
- Changes to cholesterol– medical experts are still trying to understand this effect
- Mental clarity-it is still being investigated by PFOA may have a mental impact as well
“It raises serious questions that the county and state would continue to assure residents the water was safe to drink even though the federal government had already warned residents to the contrary,” the House committee wrote in its letter to Cuomo.
Napoli Shkolnik attorneys remain at the forefront of this environmental litigation as it strives to bring justice to all Hoosick Falls residents involved in this unfortunate matter. Please contact us at (212) 397-1000 for updates and additional information.
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