Associated Press: State Assembly to hold hearings on drinking water contamination

By Mary Esch, 7/7/16

ALBANY — The state Assembly will hold hearings in the fall on water quality issues, including an examination of the Cuomo administration’s response to toxic chemical contamination of drinking water in the village of Hoosick Falls, officials announced Wednesday.

“Recent reports of water contamination in municipalities across the state have highlighted the need for a thorough review of measures to ensure clean and healthy water in our communities,” Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a news release.

Heastie spokesman Michael Whyland confirmed that the hearings would examine the state’s actions in Hoosick Falls as well as “anything related to water quality.”

“This is huge — it’s about time,” said Loreen Hackett, a Hoosick Falls resident who has been waging a social media campaign calling for hearings into why it took the state Department of Health 18 months to warn residents their drinking water was contaminated with PFOA, a toxic chemical long used in the manufacture of Teflon and similar materials.

“Who knew what, when?” Hackett said. “There needs to be some sort of accountability so people in other communities don’t go through what we have.”

Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, R-Troy, commented about the Assembly’s decision to conduct the public hearings in a news release.

“The people of Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh should be proud of their efforts and pressure they applied to make these hearings become a reality. This is the first but very crucial step to find out who knew what, and when.”

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said it’s up to the Legislature whether to hold hearings on the Hoosick Falls contamination response.

“We’re going to examine the issue of water contamination and assess our current laws and public policies on these matters, and how they’re working, to protect public access to safe, clean water,” Democratic Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried said.

The Rensselaer County villages of Hoosick Falls and nearby Petersburgh are in the midst of cleanup work for contamination with PFOA, perfluorooctanoic acid.

The Assembly hearings, to be held in Albany and Suffolk County in September, were announced the same day jurors in an Ohio federal court said PFOA used by DuPont Co. at its West Virginia plant caused a man to get testicular cancer and awarded him $5.1 million in damages.