Legislation Backs New York Residents Against Water Pollutants

Michele Baker's story is like so many in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh. 

"When I was pregnant, I was drinking the water," she said. "She got it in utero, and I gave it to her all her life. Baby bottles, her cereal, the sippy cups."

So many drank the water and gave it to their children without ever knowing it was contaminated with the manmade chemical PFOA.

"Never ever in a million years did we think our water was contaminated, or our water would cause cancer or thyroid disease or a host of other diseases," Baker said.

The chemical, typically in fire fighting foam and nonstick pans, was found at Hoosick Falls' Saint-Gobain and Petersburgh's Taconic Plastics, eventually making its way into countless residents' water. The two sites were designated as Superfund sites, meaning the state would make sure cleanup is happening as quickly as possible. 

But residents wanted more.

"I've met so many moms and dads, and their children might be sick or they're sick, or their grandparents are sick, or they might have lost someone," Baker said.

Thursday afternoon, they got what they wanted. A bill signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo now allows residents to file a claim against the pollutant up to three years after the Superfund designation.

Senator Kathy Marchione co-sponsored the bill. As she explained, the previous law only allowed a suit to be filed within three years from the occurrence of an injury caused by exposure to a contaminant.

"If you had gotten sick five years ago, for example, you wouldn't have been able to have an action without this law," Marchione said.

"It sends a strong message: Negligence and polluters will not be tolerated in New York State, so I thank the governor for that," Baker said.

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