HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — Environmental investigators have identified two companies believed to be responsible for contaminating groundwater with a dangerous chemical.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation intends to use Superfund authority to make the Saint-Gobain Corporation and Honeywell International pay for all costs related to cleaning up Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a man-made chemical linked to cancer, officials said Thursday. Both companies either currently own or formerly owned manufacturing facilities in the village.
A DEC spokesperson said the department continues to investigate how PFOA got into the ground — and in turn the village's drinking water — and that more companies could be held responsible.
The DEC's preliminary investigation identified 11 properties within the village where PFOA was possibly used for decades, according to a letter sent Thursday to both companies from DEC's Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel Thomas Berkman.
Officials want more information about Saint-Gobain's facility on 14 McCaffrey Street, which it's owned since 1996 and lies some 500 yards away from one of the village's wells, and its site across the river on Liberty Street.
The letter stated Honeywell's predecessor, Allied Signal Corporation, previously operated at the Oak Materials site on Mechanic Street, where officials believe PFOA was used. Investigators believe more of Honeywell's predecessors or related companies may be connected to other local sites, including the former Oak Materials facility on River Road and other properties on Church, First and John Streets, and Carey Avenue.
The DEC has demanded Saint-Gobain and Honeywell enter a "Consent Order" requiring they investigate the full extent of the contamination, provide interim measures to protect public health and drinking water and ultimately design and implement a comprehensive cleanup of contamination.
Officials also demanded both companies produce numerous documents relating to properties' ownership history; the length of time PFOA was used; any procedures describing how the chemical was stored, used, processed, manufactured, disposed of, or released; and lists of specific chemical spills.
"First and foremost, under Governor Cuomo's direction, our priority is to provide safe and clean drinking water to the people of Hoosick Falls," DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a release. "We will hold all companies responsible for groundwater contamination and make sure they pay all costs associated with the investigation and remediation of the source of the problem as well as assuring a usable drinking water source."
PFOA has been linked to cause cancer and other diseases. The man-made chemical was used to make Teflon nonstick cookware and to insulate wires; in 2006, eight major companies including DuPont and 3M agreed to phase-out its use by 2015.
The EPA told the village public water system's 4,900 users late last year not to cook or drink with the water. But for months prior, state, county and village officials maintained the water met all requirements. PFOA is not regulated under the federal Clean Water Act.
"As we've done from the first time we were notified about PFOA in Hoosick Falls in December 2014, we will continue to cooperate with all parties involved," Saint-Gobain Spokeswoman Dina Silver Pokedoff said in an email.
Pokedoff said the letter does not alter the French multinational company's desire to offer remedial actions, including paying for bottled water at the local Tops Friendly Markets, the installation of a temporary water filtration system which should be online next week and funding a long-term system expected to be in place by October.
"Having taken part on Tuesday in a two-hour meeting that we requested with the DEC, as well as the New York Department of Health and Region 2 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we hope that our commitment to resolving this issue in a thoughtful, efficient and open way remains both clear and shared by all parties," Pokedoff said.
A spokesman for Honeywell said company officials met with DEC and Department of Health officials on Monday "to discuss options for our participation in a program to secure the water supply of residents who rely upon private wells."
In a Feb. 5 letter to DOH Commissioner Howard Zucker, D. Evan van Hook, Honeywell's corporate vice president for health, safety, environmental, product stewardship and sustainability, wrote the Missouri-based company is reviewing operations by its predecessor, Allied Signal Laminated Systems, Inc., which operated in the village between 1986 and 1996.
"After selling the business in 1996, Allied Signal Laminated Systems conducted several site investigations and received 'No Further Action' letters from the [DEC]," van Hook wrote. "Regulations did not require testing for PFOA at the time."
According to news reports, in 1999, Allied Signal Inc. bought Honeywell Inc. for a stock swap of $13.8 billion. The company resulting from the merger was named Honeywell International.
The DEC investigation began four weeks ago when, prompted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's action, PFOA was classified as a hazardous substance and Saint-Gobain's sites were named state Superfunds.
The investigation is separate from one into alleged illegal dumping near an access road off Route 22.
— Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979