Hoosick Falls Residents Relieved Action Taken to Investigate Chemicals in Water

Hoosick Falls is a village that's seen better days, but Wednesday's Superfund site announcement is bringing hope to a place that's worried it's been drinking poisoned water for a while.

"We are a poor town," said the owner of Thorpe's Pharmacy, Jim Monahan.

The population has been declining since factories left and jobs slowly disappeared.

"And now there's nothing in the village," said a Penny, a woman who's lived there her whole life.

It's still a place where about 3,500 people live and work.

"You know everybody, you know," said Nancy Martelle. 

Many of them get their paychecks from the largest employer in town, Saint Gobain Performance Plastics. The France-based company makes Teflon-coated materials. The only factory left in this town is also the reason the people in Hoosick Falls can't drink their water.

"I've been drinking the water my whole life, so who knows what's in my system?" said Michael Kaufmann.

The EPA says high levels of the cancer causing chemical Perfluorooctanoic, or PFOA, is in the public drinking water and some private wells. They believe it came from Saint Gobain's waste and the factories here before it. 

Even after locals took it upon themselves to test the water in 2014 when they started seeing rare forms of cancer, it took a while before anyone in charge acknowledged there was a problem. Just last month, village officials and the state told residents to continue drinking the water.

"The village says it's OK, the state says it's OK, what do you think?" Monahan said of questions he started getting at his pharmacy. "And like I said, I wouldn't want to see a young child have baby formula mixed with it."

For the past few months, headlines have shown the frustration of a village that felt like no one was hearing it.

"The initial state response, I thought, was silly," said Monahan.

On December 2, a spokesman with the NYSDOH told Time Warner Cable News that "we don't expect any health effects in the community, but we don't like the PFOA being there." The state's tune changed on Wednesday with the announcement of the Superfund site, and Monahan says it's about time.

"We're looking for some good news now, and I think yesterday was a start," he said.

A temporary water filtration system for the municipal water will start working in three weeks. Saint Gobain has promised to pay for a permanent fix.

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