HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — The regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency will speak at a public forum next week about a potentially harmful chemical in the village water supply.
Judith Enck and other EPA representatives volunteered to present information to village residents, according to Marcus Martinez of Healthy Hoosick Water, Inc. The forum will focus on perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a toxic, man made chemical present in the municipal water supply.
The meeting is open to the public and will be held Thursday, Jan. 14 at 6 p.m. at the Hoosick Falls Central School in the High School Auditorium, 21187 NY Rt. 22.
"They really felt it was necessary to get up here and hold some sort of informational session where people can ask questions and get answers," Martinez, chairperson of the group and a local family physician, said Tuesday.
Martinez said the meeting's purpose is to distribute information to the public and encourage a community-wide conversation around the issue. The meeting will also include an open forum for discussion. He hopes the forum will provide attendees with the most accurate science on the issue.
He said assertions that the water is "safe to drink" and that "there are no harmful effects" are inaccurate.
While the Hoosick Falls Central School District is not on the municipal water supply, a majority of students live within the village, according to Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Facin.
"With that in mind, it is imperative that our students are fully informed, and knowledgeable about this very serious community issue," Facin said in a press release about the forum.
"Our students have expressed great concern and uncertainty about the water and are quite sensitive to this issue," Facin said. "We are the lead educational institution in this community and will avail ourselves to that end to better inform students, parents and community members about the science of this."
Mayor David Borge said the village "enthusiastically supports" efforts from Healthy Hoosick Water and Martinez, as well as the EPA and elected officials at the state, county and federal levels.
"We all share the same goal: To have a treatment system installed at the municipal water treatment plant to remove PFOA from the municipal water supply and to identify the source of the PFOA, so a cleanup can be performed as soon as possible," Borge said.
The EPA is recommending people not drink or cook with water from the village's public water supply due to the presence of PFOA. The chemical was used as fire-fighting foams and in manufacturing of nonstick coatings, and has been linked to certain cancers and other diseases.
Samples from the village's water system, which serves about 4,900 people, show the water had PFOA levels exceeding the EPA's "provisional health advisory" of 400 parts per trillion in each liter of water.
Officials haven't identified the contamination source. High levels of PFOA were found at 14 McCaffrey St., a property that has had several owners over several decades and is currently home to Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics.
Saint-Gobain is paying for bottled water for residents. The company has said it would pay for upgrades to the water treatment plant that would almost eliminate any PFOA, a project estimated at $2.2 million.
Village officials previously maintained the water met all state, county and federal guidelines and said drinking bottled water would be a personal choice. But in November, the EPA ordered the village to comply with the agency's "health advisory," which suggests water not be used for drinking and cooking if PFOA levels exceed 400 ppt. The village was also asked to update sections of its website. Borge said "technical difficulties" prevented the website from being updated sooner.
"It's good for everyone in the village," Martinez said of the changes.
EPA Spokesman John Martin confirmed Enck and representatives will attend the Jan. 14 forum. He said the federal agency is "gathering information to assess the nature of the contamination."