News Feature | December 23, 2015

PFOA Scare In New York Spurs Federal Involvement

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

A toxic chemical is plaguing a town in New York and now the feds are getting involved.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a statement warning residents in Hoosick Falls not to drink or cook with village water because of elevated levels of a toxic chemical found in the public water system last year,” the Times Union reported.

The chemical in question is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The EPA considers it an “emerging” threat, meaning it may pose a potential or real threat to public health. PFOA is a manmade substance, “readily absorbed after oral exposure.” It accumulates “primarily in the serum, kidney and liver. Toxicological studies on animals indicate potential developmental, reproductive and systemic effects.” It has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, among other major health problems.

The chemical was “used since the 1940s to manufacture industrial and household products such as non-stick coatings and heat-resistant wiring, including at a factory near the village water treatment plant,” the news report said.

Hoosick Falls politicians had been hesitant to issue a “don’t drink” warning, but after the EPA chimed in, local officials quickly fell in line. “The village's mayor has reversed his position, and adopted the EPA's recommendation,” the report said.

“The EPA's public statement was issued four days after a Times Union story reported that the state Health Department and village leaders, including Mayor David B. Borge, downplayed the health risks of PFOA in the water supply, and declined to warn people not to drink it. The story reported that many village residents, including a longtime family physician in Hoosick Falls, Dr. Marcus E. Martinez, suspected that high cancer rates and other extraordinary health problems in the village's population may be the result of the contaminated water,” the report continued.

Michael Hickey, a private resident, discovered PFOA in the Hoosick Falls water supply last year. His father, John, died of kidney cancer in 2013, the new report said.

Residents are now “receiving 5-free gallons a day of bottled water at the local [grocery store] while the Village and the health department have been working on a plan to address the issue,” according to CBS 6 Albany.

For similar stories, visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.