HOOSICK FALLS, NY — Village residents affected by contamination from PFOA want answers from state officials.
They're demanding legislators hold hearings over the state's response to contamination, and calling for the passage of a new bill that would extend how long people have to file personal injury lawsuits.
And a new social media campaign launched by residents aims to put faces to the PFOA blood test results, while calling out elected officials they say aren't doing enough.
Community members rattled by the contamination issue, joined by Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin (R-Troy), will hold a press conference in Albany on Wednesday morning. Students, parents, teachers, environmental and health advocates will deliver their PFOA blood test results to the state senate in person, according to McLaughlin's office.
State Sen. Kathy Marchione (R-Halfmoon) said this week the hearings could devolve into "finger-pointing," according to news reports, and that she would favor a task force to look at the state's response.
State officials have been criticized for not issuing immediate warnings about water contaminated with PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical formerly used to make Teflon that has been linked to cancer and other diseases. A village resident first alerted officials about its presence in the summer of 2014. It wasn't until EPA Regional Director Judith Enck wrote to the village on Nov. 25, 2015 that residents were told to not drink or cook with the tap water; the village didn't immediately update its website or issue a notice to residents.
Since then, filtration systems have been installed on the municipal water supply and private wells. PFOA has turned up in nearby Petersburgh, N.Y., and in Vermont around Bennington, North Bennington and Pownal. New York state environmental officials say Saint-Gobain and Honeywell International are the parties responsible for contamination caused by their predecessors that operated in the village for decades.
The idea of hearings were first raised in February, but never came to fruition.
"If they're going to ignore us, them I'm going to make sure they see us," resident Loreen Hackett said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Hackett is one of 2,000 residents who took part in a biomonitoring study that tested for PFOA levels in their blood. She and Michelle O'Leary are co-founders a social media effort called The PFOA Project, which uses Facebook and Twitter.
Results of blood tests found the average level of PFOA in residents' blood was roughly 23.5 parts per billion (ppb), or some 11 times the national average.
Hackett said she's lived in the village for most of her life. Her level of 266 ppb is similar to those who worked at factories that processed PFOA, although she never set foot inside a factory. She said she's angered by a slow response from the state and that she was lied to for 18 months.
Hackett said her and O'Leary issued a call for photos of people on Facebook. Residents voluntarily submitted photos of themselves holding signs which say the result of their own PFOA level. Those pictures were posted to Twitter. Among them are Hackett's grandchildren, who are Age 4 and 6.
In under a week, the Facebook group and Twitter have about 300 members and followers. The Twitter handle is @PFOAProjectNY1. Hackett, who said she had a one-day, crash-course in how to use Twitter, said she's amazed at how fast it took off.
Still, she said she and other residents deserve answers.
Elected officials have argued the most important thing is to stop residents from drinking bottled water and spoken about the community's need to "move forward."
But that's not good enough for people like Hackett.
"Given what we learned about what was concealed from us, how can we not look back," she asked. "You can't move forward without looking back. You don't want to make the same mistakes."
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979