"Mothers of Flint" event, PFOA speaker series to focus on water contamination

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HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. >> An upcoming panel discussion and a speaker series in eastern New York and southern Vermont will delve into the region's water contamination issue.

Four mothers from Flint, Mich., will speak about lead-tainted water in their community during an event in Hoosick Falls on Thursday. The women will meet with village residents affected by contamination from PFOA.

And on the same night, the first of three lectures on PFOA to be held at Bennington College this fall will kick off with a scientist who will talk about the new federal limit for the man-made chemical and carcinogen.

"The Mothers of Flint"

An event titled "The Mothers of Flint" will be held Thursday, Oct. 6, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at St. Mary's Academy, 4 Parsons Ave., Hoosick Falls, N.Y.

The four women from Flint are auto workers, an educator and a political organizer, according to Carl Korn, chief press officer with the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), an event co-sponsor.

In April 2014, Flint officials changed the city's water source to save money. But a failure to add corrosion inhibitors caused lead to leach from aging plumbing infrastructure. It set off a public health crisis in the city of 102,000: Thousands of children were found to have elevated blood lead levels, public officials were fired, and lawsuits were filed.

The women from Flint will share their stories and talk about how they got involved in that city's water crisis. Then, Hoosick Falls residents will join them to talk about what happened in their community.

The 7,000 village residents were told late last year to stop drinking municipal tap water because it contained PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, which was formerly used to make Teflon. PFOA has been linked to cancers and other diseases, and has been found in other public and private water supplies in the region. Water filtration systems were installed on the municipal system and private wells. Residents are worried about their future health. State officials are seeking a new, permanent water source for the village. The source of the contamination is believed to be nearby manufacturing facilities that operated for decades. Saint-Gobain and Honeywell, deemed responsible parties, were ordered to pick up the costs.

The goal is to "open an important dialogue about clean water," Korn said. He noted the two communities are very different, but face similar challenges.

In addition to NYSUT, which has about 618,000 members, the panel discussion is sponsored by the Hoosick Falls Teachers Association, the New York State Nurses Association, and the United Auto Workers District 9-A. Korn said the event is connected to the third national "walk-in" event organized by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools that takes place the same day.

"Understanding PFOA"

The talk at Bennington College is the latest in the college's "Understanding PFOA" series, sponsored by the college's Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) and environmental studies department.

Joyce Donohue, an EPA chemist, will speak on Thursday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m. at the CAPA Symposium. Donohue was involved in creating the agency's "Health Effects Support Document for PFOA."

The series, first held last spring, brought national voices in science, policy and journalism, said David Bond, professor and the associate director for CAPA. Bond and other professors teach a six-week course, "Understanding PFOA in Our Water," which is open to community members and students.

Donohue will speak about the new "health guidance level" for PFOA that the Environmental Protection Agency issued in March, Bond said. At 70 parts per trillion (ppt), it's down from a 400 ppt "provisional health advisory" issued in 2009. Bond said she will explain how scientists reached those numbers.

"These are complicated processes," Bond said.

The college will host two more speakers this fall. Gloria Post, an independent scientist, will speak on Oct. 20 about ongoing research on PFOA in New Jersey. Chris Higgins, a leading chemist studying PFOA in soil and food from the Colorado School of Mines, will speak on Nov. 10. Both events will be held at 7 p.m. at CAPA.

Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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