In the wake of last week's town hall meeting in the Village of Hoosick Falls, state officials are requesting that two sites at the epicenter of the perfluorooctanoic acid ("PFOA") contamination be placed on the national Superfund list.
The US Environmental Protection Agency's ("EPA") current short-term exposure guideline for PFOA is 400 parts per trillion ("ppt"). However, scientists and officials are decrying this guideline as too lax. In a letter to US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, state officials called for the EPA to "lower its provisional health advisory of 400 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA drinking water to take into account the most current scientific evidence" and to "expeditiously list PFOA as a hazardous substance" under the federal Superfund statute.
In June 2015, four out of five water samples from locations within the village public drinking water supply system had PFOA levels exceeding 600 parts per trillion ("ppt"). Further, groundwater testing at the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics facility at 14 McCaffrey Street in Hoosick Falls found levels as high as 18,000 ppt. Private wells have also been affected by PFOA contamination, and testing of private wells is ongoing.
The EPA recommends that residents in Hoosick Falls do not drink the water from the public water supply or use it for cooking. The EPA has stated that using the public water supply for showering or bathing is acceptable, but recommends that children or people with skin conditions "avoid prolonged contact such as long showers or long baths." This recent statement differs from previous guidelines from the NYS Department of Health ("DOH"). In early December, DOH handed out a "fact sheet" to residents stating "health effects are not expected to occur from normal use of the water."
PFOA, also known as C8, is a man-made chemical used in the process of making Teflon and other similar chemicals. PFOA has the potential to be a health concern because it can stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time. Studies in lab animals have found exposure to PFOA increases the risk of certain tumors of the liver, testicles, mammary glands, and pancreas in these animals. Studies in humans have found that people with workplace exposure to PFOA have higher risks of bladder and kidney cancers. Some studies have linked higher than average PFOA blood levels in humans to higher than normal cholesterol levels, thyroid disease, and reduced fertility.
There has been no official determination of when PFOA was released into the environment, how far it's spread in the groundwater and how long Hoosick Falls residents were drinking contaminated water. A Saint-Gobain spokeswoman said that "while the facility never produced or manufactured PFOA, the manufacturing processes at the facility did use raw materials containing PFOA."
The State's letters requesting that the Hoosick Falls sites be considered for the Superfund list can be found here.