EPA Addresses Potentially Harmful Chemical in Hoosick Falls Water Supply

It was standing room only, just minutes into a meeting Hoosick Falls residents have anticipated for months.

"As a mother, I can only imagine what it's been like for all the parents in this community," EPA regional administrator Judith Enck said.

Some questions were finally answered after amounts of perfluorooctanoic acid, otherwise known as PFOA, above the acceptable amount were found in village drinking water.

"There was a comprehensive study done of about 70,000 people who drank PFOA-contaminated water for about a year," Enck said, "and the study showed elevated levels of certain types of cancers, thyroid disease, problems with pregnancy."

While state agencies don't know where the man-made chemical found in non-stick pans, carpets and fire fighting foam is coming from, four times the acceptable amount have been found in the ground water at the Saint Gobain plant. Several other locations are over the limit as well. 

"We don't know how long people have been drinking contaminated water, and we don't know what the levels were," Enck said.

Saint Gobain has been paying for residents to pick up five gallons of water a day at Tops Market, but some say that isn't enough.

"Some of these families are just too big and they need more," resident Brian LaPoint said, "because, I mean, now they're saying you're not even supposed to bathe in it."

The EPA says the water isn't safe to drink, cook or brush teeth with. They recommend taking quick showers with the windows cracked open.

"The EPA has recommended that senior citizens, or people with disabilities who can't get out to the market every day and pick up their five gallons of water, should have bottled water delivered to their home," Enck said.

State agencies will be gathering blood samples and studying cancer rates while Saint Gobain pays for a filtration system, but a long-term fix will take years -- and many hope it isn't too late.

"Ever since hearing about the tainted water, it just leaves me to believe, you know, am I one of those people who is starting to have onset symptoms of drinking the water?" LaPoint asked.

People with private wells can get them tested for PFOA by the State Department of Health by emailing beei@health.ny.gov or calling 518-402-7860. For more information, log on to www.EPA.gov/aboutEPA/Hoosick-Falls-water-contamination.

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