On Saturday in this paper, a small group of litigants and others from Hoosick Falls, New York wrote a letter to the editor regarding Saint-Gobain. The letter was inaccurate, unfair, and a personalized attack on our company intended to stoke fears in the minds of area citizens. Crucially, Saint-Gobain plants in the towns mentioned in the letter – Albion, Amherst, Buffalo and Niagara – are not plants that ever processed PTFE raw materials that historically might have contained PFOA. Setting aside this critical distinction, we wanted to respond because we believe it’s important that readers of the Gazette hear directly from us regarding what we are doing.
First and foremost, the assertion that there is not potable water in Hoosick Falls and that we are not working hard toward our shared goals is incorrect. Upon learning of the presence of PFOA in both Hoosick Falls and Bennington, Vermont we immediately supplied bottled water to residents. Following, and before the government agencies in these states asked us to, we began work to understand the situation and see what we could do proactively to respond.
Here is what has been accomplished.
Hoosick Falls, New York
The Village of Hoosick Falls has had potable drinking water for more than two-and-a-half years. The residents within the village are supplied by municipal water for which we put in place a granular activated carbon (GAC) filtration system, which removes PFOA from the drinking water. This is a best-in-class solution and the water is regularly tested by the State of New York, as well. For speed, the company first installed an interim filtration unit in the spring of 2016, followed by a larger capacity unit in February of 2017. The full-capacity unit allows for future growth of the community and took about one year to engineer, install, and bring on-line. It has now been serving the community for about 18 months.
The current GAC filtration system, together with the other filtration and treatment systems previously on the water supply, prompted the New York State Health Commissioner to declare that the water in Hoosick Falls is “probably among the cleanest water in the entire nation.”
For those nearby residents not on the municipal water supply, whole house point-of-entry treatment systems (POETs) have been installed; these work in the same way as the GAC on the municipal supply and also effectively remove PFOA from the water. The state has been involved in the planning, review and implementation of these measures.
Also, contrary to the letter from the litigants, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics is working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to evaluate the feasibility of an another water supply for the Village of Hoosick Falls. If you have questions on the status of this work, we encourage you to contact the New York Department of Environmental Conservation which is guiding the project. To reiterate, while this investigation has been underway, residents have been receiving potable drinking water from their taps.
Similar to Hoosick Falls, we promptly funded bottled water and point-of-entry (POET) filtration systems for wells that tested above the state limit of 20 ppt for PFOA. We have also paid for extensive soil, groundwater and surface water sampling. We did this despite the fact that we no longer operate our site in Vermont and haven’t since 2002.
And work is currently in progress. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics is funding the extension of municipal water lines to approximately 200 homes in an area known as Corrective Action Area 1. In an area known as Corrective Action Area 2, we are in discussions with the state regarding the degree and extent of PFOA in this area, assessment of the potential source(s) of PFOA, and the appropriate next steps.
We will continue to work closely with the State of Vermont in regard to the above work.
In Conclusion and Looking Ahead
Many manufacturing plants, companies and government agencies – starting in the 1960s – operated in the Hoosick area and used raw materials that included PFOA. It can be found in many areas and was commonly used in a range of consumer and industrial products, including carpeting, fire-fighting foam, protective coating for furniture and many others. To not recognize the complexity of PFOA’s use and this issue, as the previous editorial did, makes it much harder to accurately and completely address this issue holistically.
However, we took a leadership stance on this because we are a 352-year-old company who believes that we operate in the communities as stewards. We don’t take that responsibility lightly.
The products made in these facilities by your fellow New Yorkers play a crucial role in your daily life – incorporated in the cars you drive, the networks connecting your smart phones, and the planes you take, just to name a few.
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics