EPA: Hoosick Falls, N.Y. water should not be used for drinking, cooking

Update: This article was updated on Dec. 10 to reflect comments from the mayor.

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — The Environmental Protection Agency has recommended that residents neither cook with nor drink the water from the village's public water system.

The village was also told to update a section of its website to include information consistent with the agency's "health advisory" for perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a potentially harmful chemical that was found in the public water supply.

While some information was updated as of Wednesday evening, the village's web site still did not reference the EPA's recommendation that residents not cook using the water. A post on the homepage that explained where residents can pick up jugs of free water referred to it as "drinking water."

"Boiling water does not diminish the potential health risks associated with PFOA," states the letter, dated Nov. 25 and signed by Judith A. Enck, the director of the EPA's Region 2.

On Thursday, Mayor David Borge acknowledged that the website did not state the EPA's full recommendation. He said the village website would be updated with additional information by early next week. The village is having "technical difficulties," he said, adding they should be sorted out soon. "We went to get the information out there on our website and social media," he said. He also noted the village is working with state entities on a longterm fix.

The letter also recommends private well owners have their water tested, and states the EPA is in discussions with state officials about investigating the source and extent of the contamination.

The letter was addressed to Borge. It was also sent to Nathan Graber of the state Department of Health, Basil Seggos of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Kathleen Jimino, Rensselaer County executive. PFOA was once used during the manufacturing of nonstick coatings and stain-resistent materials, but has largely been phased out. Samples from the 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.

Officials are unsure of how PFOA got into the water supply. Testing at the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics site at 12 McCaffrey St. found PFOA levels up to 45 times greater than what the EPA recommends. Saint-Gobain representatives maintain they do not know their facility is the source of the PFOA.

The company has begun funding one of the letter's recommendations to the town — free jugs of drinking water for residents is available at the local Tops Friendly Market. The company has also said it would fund filtration system to remove PFOA, a long-term solution recommended in the letter.

The letter took issue with section of the website that states, "the EPA is in the data collection phase only," and, "there is no standard or benchmark to determine how these numbers are to be interpreted for their impact on public health."

The letter states the EPA's provisional health guideline is 400 parts per trillion and reflects an amount that could cause "adverse health affects in the short-term."

Some changes were made to the site. As of press time, the lines of some text were changed from black to blue, a footnote stated the EPA disputed the original wording and the EPA's health advisory was made more clear.

Absent was any mention that the EPA, citing its provisional health advisory, recommends the water not be used for cooking "(e.g., boiling pasta, making soup, steaming vegetables, etc.)"

Among the other recommendations in the letter were that owners of private wells be encouraged to identify themselves to the village and sign up to have their water tested. If private wells are confirmed to have PFOA levels over the guideline, the letter states, water should be supplied to the owner, followed by a more permanent solution such as an individual treatment system or connection to the public water supply.

"There needs to be a commitment to do substantially more private well sampling," the letter states.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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