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NYSNYS NEWS: Cuomo meets with local leaders, orders steps to determine health risk from Hoosick Falls water contamination and 'restore confidence' in community.
NYSNYS NEWS: Cuomo meets with local leaders, orders steps to determine health risk from Hoosick Falls water contamination and 'restore confidence' in community.

By Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 27) — Officials from Hoosick Falls met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his aides on Wednesday, emerging to announce the state will take a more proactive role in determining if traces of a chemical in the water supply poses a health risk to residents.

They said the state was adding the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant to its Superfund list and would try to determine the extent of the contamination of local groundwater supplies by an industrial chemical called PFOA. Hoosick Falls’ water wells are located next to the plant that used the chemical in its production line for decades.

Acting Encon Commissioner Basil Seggos said that series of actions ordered by Cuomo were “intended to restore the public’s confidence in Hoosick Falls.”

“DEC has today issued an emergency regulation listing the contaminant PFOA as a hazardous substance,” he said. “This emergency regulation will allow DEC to tap into its Superfund Authority both to investigate the extent of the contamination of PFOA in Hoosick Falls and importantly to begin remediation quickly.”

“We’re doing an analysis now and hopefully within a month and hopefully sooner than that we’ll have some answers,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker told reporters.

Zucker said the state would continue a “health risk analysis” of the contamination, retest private water wells, and install water filtration systems at schools and community gathering places.

Hoosick village, town and school officials expressed relief that the state was taking action after weeks of uncertainty about whether the water was safe to drink. Regulators have known for years that the water supply was contaminated by PFOA, but concluded the risk was minimal and did not issue public warnings until recently. That set off a mini-panic in the small Rensselaer County community on the Vermont border, both among residents and lending institutions that suspended loan activity there.

“A lot of people are scared about what the next steps were,” said Hoosick Town Supervisor Mark Surdam. “Many of use don’t even know what the next steps are going to be. But the leadership today that was shown by the governor and his staff and his commissioners that were involved, it’s an awesome day for the town of Hoosick.”

“Things are going to start to happen very very quickly,” added David Borge, mayor of the village of Hoosick Falls.

The meeting called by Cuomo was unannounced and following growing concerns about the water crisis there and the adequacy of the state’s response. Cuomo, who hasn’t held a formal news conference in Albany since June 2015, did not participating the brief press conference. Zucker ducked questions on the water crisis at a budget hearing earlier this week, with his aides physically blocking reporters from getting near him.

Senator Kathy Marchione (R-Halfmoon), whose district includes Hoosick Falls, told reporters Cuomo led the meeting and directed state commissioners to take action. “I’m very grateful to Gov. Cuomo for the meeting that we had and the outcome of what we came out with today,” she said.