HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. >> A temporary carbon filtration system will remove nearly all of a contaminant in the water supply, and will be online in five to eight weeks, according to Mayor David Borge.
A permanent, long-term upgrade to the water treatment plant is in the design phase and is expected to be completed by October, Borge said. Both projects are being funded by the Saint-Gobain Corporation and aim to eliminate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a toxic, man-made chemical from the village water supply.
"This is a huge step forward," Borge told the Banner Friday. "We fully expect it to reduce the amount of PFOA to below current detectable levels, which would be significantly less than 20 parts per trillion."
Borge said once the filter is installed, residents would no longer have to drink only bottled water, as recommended by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
He said the Village Board approved the temporary project at a special meeting Thursday.
PFOA was once used in the manufacturing of nonstick coatings and stain-resistent materials, but has largely been phased out. Samples show the water supply serving 4,900 people had PFOA levels over the EPA's "provisional health advisory" of 400 parts per trillion in each liter of water.
Many residents have expressed concern about their health and have taken action through social media and other efforts. Family physician Marcus Martinez founded Healthy Hoosick Water Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness on the issue and advocating for a full clean-up.
Borge said the temporary system is a granulated activated carbon (GAC) filter manufactured by the Calgon Carbon Corporation of Pittsburgh, Pa. The filter, which will be leased, will be delivered in about two weeks and will be installed at the water treatment plant on Waterworks Road.
A permanent GAC filter at the plant will serve as a long-term solution, Borge said. The village is currently working with the New York Department of Health on the project. The project's estimated $2 million price tag will be funded by Saint-Gobain.
According to a schedule on the village website, the project's final design would be ready for DOH approval by Jan. 31. Construction bids would be awarded by March 1. Major equipment would be on-site and installed by July 15. Treatment start-up and testing would begin by Aug. 30, and the construction would be completed by Oct. 30.
"The board's focus has been getting the water fixed as quickly and thoroughly as possible," Borge said. He declined to speak to negative comments made on social media, but said, "the board has been extremely proactive, and now we're seeing more results from that effort. It's not as quick as I wish it was, but this is moving forward."
Borge said the village government's next step is to work with county, state and federal agencies to find the contamination source. High levels of PFOA were found at the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics site on McCaffrey Street, but the property had several owners over decades and it's not clear when the PFOA was released.
"There's a lot of speculation, but it hasn't been confirmed yet," Borge said.
But David Engel, an attorney with Albany's Nolan & Heller, LLP representing Healthy Hoosick Water, said the pollution source is already known.
"Beyond any question, the McCaffrey Street plant is the source of contamination that has affected the village water supply," Engel said.
Saint-Gobain voluntarily informed the EPA of contamination through a letter that was hand-delivered to the EPA's Washington, D.C. headquarters in December of 2014, he said. In the letter, an attorney representing the company wrote that the Hoosick Falls facility processes things that were made with PFOA, "but it is not and never has been a manufacturer, processor, distributor or user of PFOA per se anywhere in the United States."
Engel said HHW's goal is to achieve a full cleanup of PFOA contamination in the greater Hoosick area.
"To that end, Saint-Gobain owns both the McCaffrey Street and Liberty Street properties," Engel said. "As such, they have strict liability for contamination at those locations."
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979