Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances

The Social Discovery of a Class of Emerging Contaminants

Hoosick Falls, New York

Suspected contamination source: Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell manufacturing plant (Lyons, 2016)

Hoosick Fall’s resident Michael Hickey launched his own investigation into the town’s water supply because he was concerned about what he believed was a high rate of cancer in the community. His father, John, died of kidney cancer in 2013 after working for decades at the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant.

“All I typed in was Teflon and cancer, because that’s what was in the factory that was in Hoosick Falls where my father worked,” said Michael Hickey. “It took about five minutes.”

In 2014, after his internet search revealed PFOA was used to make Teflon, Hickey took samples of village water and sent them to a lab to be tested on his own dime. Results showed high levels of PFOA. Further testing by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) revealed PFOA levels as high as 600 ppt. Testing also revealed groundwater near Saint Gobain contained PFOA levels at 20- 18,000 ppt and a nearby dump had levels as high as 21,000 ppt. The EPA lifetime health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS is 70 ppt at individual or combined.

Nearly a year and a half passed from the time the chemical was discovered in the water by Hickey to when the warning from state health officials told residents to avoid drinking it. This warning came after the EPA issued a federal warning to the state requiring alternate water be provided to users of the municipal water supply for drinking and cooking purposes.

In response to the water crises in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh, and upon the recommendation of the NY Department of Health, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officially declared PFOS a hazardous substance. The change in state law, which took effect on April 25, 2016, allows the DEC to regulate the handling and storage of PFOS and also allows the state to remediate contaminated sites under NY’s State Superfund Program (Riverkeeper, 2016). This led to the listing of the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant as a state Superfund site.

Additional Resources

Hoosick Falls Water Contamination – EPA 
PFOA in Drinking Water in the Village of Hoosick Falls and Town of Hoosick

Hoosick Falls Action Timeline

Media Coverage:

Full citations are available on the second page of the full contamination site tracker. We ask for your additions, changes, questions and comments to be sent to pfasproject@gmail.com.

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