HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — The Hoosick Falls Board of Trustees unanimously approved Wednesday a $225,000 interim settlement agreement with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International, which have been designated responsible parties in toxic chemical contamination in the village.
The trustees approved the agreement in a special meeting, held at 6 p.m. at the municipal building at 24 Main St. Mayor Robert Allen also voted in favor.
The interim agreement covers the village's costs related to the routine operation and maintenance of the granular activated carbon (GAC) filtration system installed as a result of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) contamination. Of the $225,000, $185 is for costs up until April 30, and $70,000 is for anticipated costs for the current fiscal year.
Like previous interim settlement agreements, this will maintain the village's legal rights going forward.
"The only things we can't sue for [are] the things we've already been paid for," Allen said when reached Thursday. "Which you wouldn't do anyway."
The trustees did not discuss the agreement before voting.
"I was very glad to have the support of the board," Allen said of the vote. "I was glad to sort of give the community an update on where we are now, what's coming next, because it's such a complicated issue."
Before taking a roll call vote, the trustees heard public comment on the agreement from one resident, Kevin Allard.
He thanked the board for making the agreement public before voting on it, and complimented them on the work they've done regarding PFOA contamination.
"What I'm disappointed [with] is — that we have to negotiate," he said. "The people of Hoosick Falls are drinking remediated water that is coming out of a site that was contaminated by this company. It's just kind of sad that we have to negotiate this That they don't just step up to the plate and do the right thing."
The village's attorney regarding PFOA, David Engel of the Albany law firm Nolan Heller Kauffman LLP, responded to Allard's comments.
"This is a long process, and it's not an easy process," he said. He called Saint-Gobain's and Honeywell's liability for the situation in question "clear and unmistakable."
"This is an interim agreement, and one that makes the village, in essence, whole up to this point," he said. "There are a lot of moving parts to this whole situation."
At the meeting, Allen emphasized that the new agreement doesn't require the village to give up any rights.
"We're not signing away any rights, and there are still a lot of moving parts that I think will fully inform what our end results are, and what our decisions are," he said.
Before the vote, Trustee Brian Bushner said he wanted to thank the village's attorneys for their work, as he said he doesn't think the public realizes the effort they put in.
"We've come a long way," he said. "We're paying our bills. So thank you guys for your hard work."
The village is also extending a previous tolling agreement another five months, to October of this year. The tolling agreement basically states that each side won't sue the other for a year, but either party can waive the agreement with 30 days' notice, Allen said.
"It basically just acknowledges that we have more to figure out," he said. "We need answers on a few more things to know the extent of the contamination, what we're dealing with."
By the time the fall rolls around, he said, they should have a lot more answers.
To date, the village has not sued related to PFOA contamination.
PFOA was widely used for decades to manufacture products like Teflon, which in turn was used to coat wire, cookware, tapes and fabric. In early 2016, a temporary filtration system was installed to remove PFOA from the village's municipal water supply system; a permanent filtration system has been active since early 2017.
This isn't the first settlement the village has approved. Currently, there are two interim settlement agreements in place, which total over $500,000 and cover costs the village has taken on in relation to PFOA contamination and lost revenues based on lower water and sewer use, Allen said.
This new interim agreement will cover separate costs not covered under the prior agreements, he said.
The village also previously ran into problems, Allen said, with two other proposed settlement agreements that were not approved. One was just under $900,000; the other was a little over $1 million, he said.
Both encountered intense opposition, Allen said, and were tabled.
"Those were universally panned by pretty much everyone, including myself," he said. "The key thing was — the village would have signed away its rights to sue for PFOA contamination. That was the part that was universally panned for a number of reasons."
There are two major upcoming steps in the village's effort to deal with PFOA contamination, Allen said.
Namely, the village is waiting for the expected release of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's Alternate Water Supply Study, anticipated to be released in July.
This report will list all available options for the village's long-term water supply, according to a June 18 press release posted on the village's website.
"This is a big part of understanding where Hoosick Falls will be with water five, fifty and a hundred years from now," Allen said in the release.
The second issue, he said, is the question of what's going to happen with the long-closed old landfill, just north of the village in the town of Hoosick. When tested, the landfill had "extremely" high levels of PFOA, he said. The landfill, which is owned by the village of Hoosick Falls, has been declared a Superfund site, he said.
"Once those two are figured out, we're going to understand a lot more about what's coming where we're at," he said.
Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-337-7567, ext. 118.