HOOSICK FALLS, NY — New legislation filed by state lawmakers aims to help residents seek legal action for being made sick from contaminated water.
Under the current state law, individuals have three years after being diagnosed with an illness to file a lawsuit alleging exposure to toxic chemicals made them sick. For some, that means the statute of limitations may run out before it's known that a type of illness is linked to contamination.
But the bill introduced in the Senate last week would allow individuals to file claims up to three years after an area is declared a state Superfund site.
The bill is being sponsored by state Sen. Kathleen Marchione (R-Halfmoon) and Assemblyman John T. McDonald III (D-Cohoes). Both legislators say the bill is in response to events in Hoosick Falls, where the discovery of a man-made chemical found in the water supply led to residents being told not to drink or cook with the water and raised serious concern over health issues such as cancers as well as thyroid and kidney disease.
"The legislation is a common sense solution to ensure that families in Hoosick Falls, or any community that has a Superfund site declaration, can fully pursue their options available through our civil legal process," Marchione, chairwoman of the Senate's Local Government Committee, said in a statement recently.
It's being described as a bi-partisan bill that would give more time to those who were diagnosed with an illness before test results found the water had elevated levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical once used to make Teflon.
"It is right and just not only for those residents in Hoosick Falls but in other communities where this potential issue or issues such as this could arise again," McDonald said in a statement.
The law now on the books says that in order for someone to file a personal injury claim alleging exposure to toxic chemicals made them sick, they must file a lawsuit within three years of being diagnosed with an illness.
Residents have previously asked what to do if themselves — or a loved one — were diagnosed with an illness years before the contamination was found.
The new bill would give individuals three years to file personal injury claims if a nearby area is declared a Superfund cleanup site, or three years from their diagnosis, whichever one is latest.
The state declared two of Saint-Gobain's sites in Hoosick Falls Superfund sites in January. The bill's language indicates that, if it passes the Senate and Assembly and is then signed by the governor, it would take effect immediately. That would mean residents have until early 2019 to file a lawsuit.
The bill was introduced in the New York State Senate on Feb. 25, where it was referred to the senate's judiciary committee. It is not yet on the Senate Floor's calendar.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979