01.28.16

SCHUMER URGES SAINT-GOBAIN TO BE TRANSPARENT AND TO PROACTIVELY COOPERATE WITH EPA/DEC – AND NOT TO STONEWALL, STALL AND LITIGATE WHEN IT COMES TO DEFINING EXTENT OF PFOA CONTAMINATION AND EXECUTING CLEAN-UP SENATOR URGES COMPANY TO IMMEDIATELY AGREE TO A COMPREHENSIVE & AGGRESSIVE WATER TESTING PLAN FOR PUBLIC AND PRIVATE DRINKING WATER SOURCES, SAYING COMPANY’S NUMBER ONE PRIORITY MUST BE TO FULLY COOPERATE WITH FEDS, STATE, & LOCAL OFFICIALS TO DETERMINE THE EXTENT OF PFOA CONTAMINATION AND

Recent Discovery Of Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) In Hoosick Falls, NY Could Pose Environmental & Health Risks To The Hoosick Falls Community 

Schumer:  A Pall of Uncertainly and Fear is Hanging Over Hoosick Falls and Only a Cooperative and Transparent Saint-Gobain Can Clear That Up; There Can Be No Foot-Dragging or Stonewalling When it Comes to Detailing the PFOA Contamination and Cleaning it Up

In a letter to Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics President and CEO Tom Kinisky, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics to work “promptly, proactively and transparently” with both federal and state environmental officials – and not to “litigate, stonewall, stall and frustrate” – to define and clean-up the Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) contamination in Hoosick Falls, NY.

PFOA is a man-made chemical used to make non-stick and other household and commercial products that are heat-resistant and repel grease and water. However, PFOA exposure has been linked to increased health risks, including birth defects and cancers that impact organs like the kidneys and thyroid. Schumer said that because PFOA was used to manufacture products for an extended period of time, both before and after Saint-Gobain’s ownership of the Hoosick Falls facility at McCaffrey Street, it is critical that the company cooperates with all federal, state and local stakeholders – including the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) – to define the precise source and nature of the contamination and the risk it may pose to the environment and human health in the region.  

Following a rundown of the recent discovery of elevated levels of the highly toxic chemical PFOA in various drinking water sources and EPA’a order not to consume or cook with this water, Schumer wrote in his letter:

“These developments, and others, have cast a pall of uncertainty and fear over the Hoosick Falls community, with wide ranging impacts from health and emotional well-being to the local economy. The only way that this uncertainty and fear can be addressed is by speedily defining all potential sources of the contamination, the nature of the contamination, the threat the contamination poses to human health and how far it has spread. Then, it must be cleaned up . . . And on all these matters the speedy cooperation of Saint-Gobain is essential.

I write, therefore, to urge Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics to work promptly, proactively and transparently with the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to define and clean-up the perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) contamination in Hoosick Falls. It is absolutely crucial that Saint-Gobain maximally cooperate with all federal, state, and local stakeholders to address this situation and the risk it poses to our environment and human health in the region. 

While it is possible within the enforcement process to stall for time, to litigate, to stonewall, to stall and to frustrate – as other polluting companies have chosen that route – the urgency of this situation cries out against Saint-Gobain using that option. From experience in other similarly-impacted communities in New York, I know that working cooperatively and transparently to confront this challenge is in the best interests of both the people of Hoosick Falls and Saint-Gobain,” said Schumer.

Saint-Gobain has had a presence in the Hoosick Falls area since 1999, when they first purchased the plant on McCaffrey Street. However, the recent discovery of PFOA water contamination in the area has many residents concerned for their health and safety, as this dangerous chemical has been linked to numerous health risks and was used to manufacture products for an extended period of time at the McCaffrey Street plant. Schumer explained that, according to the EPA, PFOA levels of more than 400 parts per trillion (PPT), are considered unsafe for consumption. Schumer said this is concerning because, in June 2015, the four samples of drinking water collected from the public water supply in Hoosick Falls contained more than 600ppt. In addition, groundwater testing samples at the Saint-Gobain facility were found to have levels as high as 18,000ppt. 

These initial water testing results have many local residents and officials in the Hoosick Falls area worried, as the Saint-Gobain plant is located only a short distance away from the community’s water treatment facility. According to a recent report from The New York Times, companies that were previously found to be using PFOA noted that the harmful chemical should be incinerated or sent to chemical-waste facilities, rather than flushed into surface water or sewers because of the potential environmental and health risks. Schumer said the particularly high level of 18,000ppt PFOA contamination found in local groundwater testing results means a wide variety of environmental and health risks could impact the Hoosick Falls community.

Schumer said this contamination needs to be remediated as soon as possible, which is why he is urging Saint-Gobain to work with the federal EPA, NYS DEC and local stakeholders to determine the full size and scope of this contamination, in order to better assess the threats to the community and begin the clean-up process as soon as possible. Schumer is therefore pushing the company to agree to an aggressive and comprehensive testing regime to define the extent of the pollution – and not to drag out the process via litigation, stalling and lack of transparency. Schumer said it is essential that Saint-Gobain pledge to support the clean-up efforts so that the community may recover quickly and with minimal threat to the environment and residents.  

“Saint-Gobain should be an open book when it comes to delineating the sources of contamination and an open check book when it comes to pollution clean-up,” said Senator Schumer, “should that process clearly show them the responsible party.”

Schumer said that while Saint-Gobain has taken steps to assist the community, more must be done. And fast. Schumer said the company’s purchasing of drinking water for residents and its paying for the planned installation of both a temporary filter and a permanent carbon-filter system at the village treatment plant that would remove PFOA from the water is a great start that must be turned into long-term solutions. Schumer said the scope of the contamination must be determined and the pollution removed in order for the physical and economic health of the Town of Hoosick Falls to be truly addressed. 

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the company appears below:

As you are aware, an urgent public health crisis has developed in Hoosick Falls, NY involving the unfortunate discovery of elevated levels of the highly toxic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in area drinking water sources. This situation has appropriately attracted the attention of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which on November 25, 2015 officially recommended “that people not drink the water from the Hoosick Falls public water supply or use it for cooking.” More recently the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation asked the EPA to list certain areas in and around Saint-Gobain facilities, which used PFOA in its manufacturing process for many years, on the federal Superfund list. And, just yesterday, the state Department of Environmental Conservation took further action adding the area to the state’s Superfund list.

These developments, and others, have cast a pall of uncertainty and fear over the Hoosick Falls community, with wide ranging impacts from health and emotional well-being to the local economy. The only way that this uncertainty and fear can be addressed is by speedily defining all potential sources of the contamination, the nature of the contamination, the threat the contamination poses to human health and how far it has spread. Then, it must be cleaned up – and paid for by those responsible for causing the pollution. And on all these matters the immediate cooperation of Saint-Gobain is essential.

I write, therefore, to urge Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics to work promptly, proactively and transparently with the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to define and clean-up the perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) contamination in Hoosick Falls. It is absolutely crucial that Saint-Gobain maximally cooperate with all federal, state, and local stakeholders to address this situation and the risk it poses to our environment and human health in the region. 

While it is possible within the enforcement process to stall for time, to litigate, to stonewall and frustrate – and, unfortunately, other polluting companies have chosen that route – the urgency of this situation cries out against Saint-Gobain using that option. From experience in other similarly-impacted communities in New York, I know that working cooperatively and transparently to confront this challenge is in the best interests of both the people of Hoosick Falls and Saint-Gobain.

As you know, Saint-Gobain has had a presence in the Hoosick Falls, New York area since 1999, when they purchased the plant on McCaffrey Street. The McCaffrey Street plant, which is located only a short distance away from the community’s water treatment facility, used PFOA to manufacture products for an extended period of time, both before and after Saint-Gobain’s ownership. According to the EPA, PFOA levels of more than 400 parts per trillion (PPT), are considered unsafe for consumption.  On June 4, 2015, four samples of drinking water were collected from the public water supply in Hoosick Falls.  These sample contained more than 600ppt, while additional groundwater testing at the Saint-Gobain facility were found to have levels as high as 18,000 ppt.  This high level of PFOA contamination presents a wide variety of environmental and health risks to the Hoosick Falls community, which needs to be remediated as soon as possible. 

Now that enforcement actions have commenced, it is imperative that Saint-Gobain work with the Hoosick Falls community, the EPA, and the DEC to develop a plan to ensure that the PFOA contamination can be remedied as soon as possible.  I appreciate the steps that Saint-Gobain has taken to assist the community, for example, by purchasing drinking water for residents and by paying for the planned installation of both a temporary filter and a permanent carbon-filter system at the village treatment plant that would remove PFOA from the water. That is an important start, but it is by no means sufficient. Specifically, Hoosick Falls must have an aggressive and comprehensive testing regime that covers public and private drinking water sources -- to define the scope and content of the pollution. All sources must be identified and those sources require regular monitoring. Further, if a pollution plume exists, it must be precisely defined and then remediated.

As mentioned above, Saint-Gobain is in a unique position to move this community from uncertainty to certainty. This is best accomplished via a cooperative and speedy effort to define the facts – and by pledging to support the clean-up efforts so that the community may recover as soon as possible. Saint-Gobain has been a valuable employer in upstate New York, and your assistance in delivering clean water to the people of Hoosick Falls is appreciated, but the scope of the contamination must be determined and the pollution removed to restore the physical and economic health of Hoosick Falls. Thank you for your attention to this important request. I look forward to working with your company to address these concerns.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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