Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances

The Social Discovery of a Class of Emerging Contaminants

Rensselaer County and Petersburgh, New York

Suspected contamination source: Taconic Plastics Limited factory (Town document, 2017)

NYS Department of Health and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) conducted a groundwater study around Petersburgh.

As part of the study, the county says they began sampling public and private water supplies initially within a half mile and then a mile of the Taconic Plastics factory in town. The Taconic site in Petersburgh manufactured Teflon-coated products containing PFOA.

The DEC had documents in 2005 showing PFOA levels as high as 152,000 parts per trillion in wells on the Taconic site. Residents who rent homes from the Taconic factory tell news sources that the company has been providing them and plant workers bottled water for years, with instructions not to drink the tap water (Yonkunas, 2016). The company also installed a carbon filter system on the wells at the plant.

At the time, no regulations or safe levels of PFOA were suggested by the EPA. In January 2009, the EPA set its advisory for short-term exposure to PFOA at no more than 400 ppt and in 2016 that number decreased to a combined lifetime exposure of 70 ppt PFOA/PFOS.

After the Hoosick Falls contamination became public, Taconics alerted the DEC again. The DEC then began testing the water in Petersburgh and, following results that indicated high levels of water contamination, the state began providing bottled water for residents.

Private wells near the factory had PFOA levels in their water ranging from 20ppt to 2100 ppt (source). The county then began testing additional wells in Petersburgh, Berlin, Schagticoke and around the county. Preliminary results of the Petersburgh public water supply show PFOA levels of 95.9 ppt in a sample of water that underwent typical municipal treatment.

Taconic is paying to install carbon filter systems on private homes and a system for the municipal water supply.

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 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).

Tactonic Plastics Coon Brook Road plant was declared a state Superfund site in May 2016. A class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of Petersburgh residents against Taconic. The lawsuit seeks long-term medical monitoring for people who have elevated levels of PFOA in their blood and may be at increased risk for diseases such as cancer.

In May 2017, the New York State Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation announced the new granular activated carbon (GAC) treatment system is fully operational for the town of Petersburgh’s public water supply.

Additional Resources

PFOA Water Information – Rensselaer County
DEC to Hold Taconic Plastics Responsible for PFOA Contamination Cleanup – NY DEC

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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