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HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. >> Testing of a well that provides water to the Hoosick Falls Central School District bus garage has uncovered the same contamination that has crippled the village's water system.
District officials said at a Thursday night Board of Education meeting that the water supply to the garage, located about 1 1/4 miles from the school campus, tested positive for perfluorooctanoic acid, a toxic chemical used for decades primarily to make Teflon coating for cookware and the same chemical found in dangerous concentrations in the village water system.
The EPA recommended in December that village water not be used for cooking or drinking because of the presence of PFOA in the public supply. The federal agency also recommended that private well owners have their water tested for contamination, as well.
Samples from the village water system, which serves about 4,900 people, had PFOA levels that exceeded the EPA's "provisional health advisory" of 400 parts per trillion in each liter of water. Some studies have linked PFOA to certain types of cancer, and the EPA is considering regulating it under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
Brian Bushner, a spokesman for the school district, said in a news release that no such contamination has been discovered in the water supply for the main campus, despite ongoing testing.
"Our water at the school is safe, and we continue to test our school campus water to ensure that we are providing a safe water supply to our kids," Bushner said. "Once the results were received, we immediately informed the employees at the bus garage. Additionally, we have taken immediate steps to protect the safety of our employees."
Well water at the bus garage has not been used for drinking or human consumption since 1997, he explained, but the district has already submitted a plan to add a carbon filtration system to the Rensselaer County Department of Health for its approval. The district is also exploring other options for washing buses to protect employees from spraying spray, including alternate locations for cleaning the district's bus fleet.
"This positive test at the bus garage does not impact our students or our operations at the school in any way, and we are taking steps to work through the situation," Bushner said.
Officials are unsure of how PFOA got into the water supply. Testing at the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics site on McCaffrey Street found PFOA levels up to 45 times greater than the EPA's recommendation, but company officials maintain they don't know their facility is the source of the chemical in the water system.
The company is, however, funding a program to provide free bottled water to water system users through the local Tops supermarket and has said it would pay for the installation of a filter at the water treatment plant that would remove the chemical, a project estimated to cost about $2.2 million.