This past Friday Liz Moran, policy director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, shared the unresolved story of the Hoosick Falls water contamination. By sharing the story of the Hoosick Falls community, Liz helped raise awareness of the crisis that is still in the process of remediation and the importance of environmental health advocacy.
It started when a private citizen of Hoosick Falls grew suspicious of the unusually high incidences of diseases in his small village of 3,500 people. He did a water quality analysis and found 600 parts per trillion of unregulated PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid), a cancer causing chemical in the water. He reported the data to the New York State Department of Public Health. They said the levels were safe. New York state did not act to inform the public because the drinking water standard for unregulated contaminants of 600 parts per trillion was under the standard of 50,000 parts per trillion. EPA has a different standard of 400 parts per trillion and they told New York state to notify Hoosick Falls. After inaction from the state, the EPA stepped in and sent the letters that changed the lives of everyone in Hoosick Falls. One day the people of Hoosick Falls received a letter in the mail that an invisible, tasteless chemical was in their drinking water for an unknown amount of time. They had no idea what the chemical would do to their health, the health of their families, or the future of their home. Anger and frustration filled public hearings hosted by the EPA. The community felt betrayed by their state and their government. From one day to the next Hoosick Falls had fallen into a water crisis. They were left with many questions: How did this go unnoticed for so long? Why did this happen? How do we make sure this never happens again?
The water crisis in Hoosick Falls is still a work in progress. Six years from receiving the envelope, they still do not have a safe, long-term source of water. The crisis did set the stage in water policy shift in New York, but it still has a long way to go. New York changed the level for PFOA presence to 70 parts for trillion, but it is still too high. In fact, science is coming out that there is no safe level of PFOA. Liz Moran’s organization is pushing New York to lower the level to 2 parts per trillion, the lowest detectable amount. The Hoosick Falls water crisis represents a major breach of trust at the federal and state level, Liz explained, but it is important that people keep fighting. The New York Public Interest Research Group is advocating to prevent future water crisis.
By Cristina Mancilla ’20