HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. – The newly installed carbon filtration system at the municipal water treatment plant in Hoosick Falls is fully operational.
Water has begun pumping through the system and into the village’s water distribution system.
“This is a major step forward,” Mayor David Borge said. “The State Department of Health informed the village that it recommended the new facility begin operating and delivering treated water to the distribution system. As a result, water began flowing through the carbon filtration system late Tuesday.”
The NYS DOH approved the system for use based on the results of bacteriological and inorganic contaminant sampling. The DOH has not, yet, sampled the treated water to determine if the carbon filtration system is effectively reducing PFOA to safe levels.
A schedule for the sampling program is near completion.
“I want to caution residents that EPA’s recommendation to refrain from using the municipal water for drinking and cooking still remains in effect,” Borge said. “It will likely take another few weeks for NYS DOH to conduct a rigorous sampling program to ensure the carbon filtration system is effectively removing PFOA from the water.”
Residents have been receiving free bottled water since the contamination was announced, and they will continue using bottled water until the new system is completely up and running.
“We live in fear every day of living here and none of us should have to live in fear,” Lisa Tifft, of Hoosick Falls, said. “I need the delivery because I’m on disability. Can’t get anywhere to get anything.”
Tifft counts on “water angel” Michelle O’Leary, who started a grassroots volunteer effort to make sure those in need get water in Hoosick Falls.
“When she comes to our house and delivers our water, it’s just such a helpful thing, and we do appreciate everything she does,” Tifft said.
“Sometimes I feel like those considered the little people are kind of swept under the carpet and forgotten, so I felt like it was my duty to make sure they were taken care of,” O’Leary said.
The new system is almost completely ready, though residents will continue using bottled water.
“No, not at all,” O’Leary said. “I still am not thrilled about us even showering in it.”
Because so many village residents want to continue using bottled water, O’Leary must continue her efforts for many more months.
“Right now, I’m doing the best I can, but I kind of feel someone should take responsibility, and it shouldn’t be me forever because it’s going to be a long haul,” she said. “This is going on until October.”
O’Leary said she has put the word out to try and get some help.
“Part of me almost feels like it’s being taken for granted because someone else is doing it, so I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve tried to put the word out to get help.”
O’Leary also delivers important information.
“I work hard on trying to get information out to them because they don’t attend meetings,” she said. “They’re not on social media, so I always have a box of papers in my car, and I’m kind of their resource and eyes and ears between the village and what’s going on.”
O’Leary was supposed to meet with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics on Thursday, but she is listed in a class action lawsuit against the company so she said the meeting was cancelled.
“They sent me an e-mail yesterday basically giving me their apologies and saying that they can’t really talk to me now since my name was mentioned,” she said.
A Saint-Gobain spokesperson sent the following statement on Thursday:
“We are deeply appreciative of the tireless community service of Michelle O’Leary and the Water Angles during this trying time. Since the lawsuit was filed yesterday, the meeting to discuss the water delivery and how we might help was postponed to enable Michelle the time to speak with her counsel. As noted to Michelle, this in no way diminishes our deep appreciation of her efforts. We are committed to continuing to explore ways to support the water delivery efforts in partnership with the Water Angels, the Mayor and the Village.”
Village officials will begin flushing the municipal water supply to purge local water mains and hydrants of any PFOA-contaminated water residing in the pipes. Once approval for the flushing procedures is obtained by NYS DOH and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, a schedule for flushing activities will be developed and shared with the public.