$850K PFOA contamination settlement reached with Saint-Gobain, Honeywell International
HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — Village trustees are poised to vote this week on a finalized $850,000 settlement between two companies for PFOA contamination.
The full, six-page agreement is now posted to the village website: www.villageofhoosickfalls.com. Trustees will review the agreement at an open, public meeting on Thursday, Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. at the village senior center, 69 Church St.
The village would use over $400,000 to pay legal, engineering and public relations consultants, according to a news release issued Monday night. The rest would reimburse the village for losses such as decreased water and sewer revenue. Under the agreement, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International would split the total and have 30 days to pay the municipality directly.
Under the settlement, both the village and companies agree to not pursue legal action against each other over PFOA in the municipal water supply and related infrastructure, "excepting any claims related to new wells."
Water users were told for several months not to drink from the tap because it contained elevated levels of PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, a man-made chemical that has been linked to cancer. It was used in nearby factories for decades to make Teflon-coated products. Both companies signed state consent orders in June and agreed to study and clean up the contamination and to negotiate a settlement with the village.
In the news release, Mayor David Borge highlighted the village's efforts and said officials' first prioirty was to make sure residents had clean drinking water.
"We could have stopped there," Borge stated. "Instead, the Village Board continued to demand Saint-Gobain and Honeywell cover all the additional costs and losses the village has incurred, to ensure local residents do not bear the brunt of a situation they didn't create. To the companies' credit, they realized the financial burden the PFOA crisis has created for our small community and agreed to this unprecedented agreement."
Talks between local officials and attorneys hired by the village, and attorneys for both companies, have been ongoing for months. Borge announced at December's trustee meeting an agreement was almost done. Trustees came out of executive session without voting; some attendees asked about an opportunity for public comment. The total amount of $850,000 was announced in a press release several days later.
The settlement doesn't include direct compensation to residents. A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of Hoosick-area residents in U.S. District Court seeks damages to property values and health, and payments for long-term medical monitoring for people exposed to PFOA.
According to the news release, the municipality would receive $337,000, about 40 percent of the total, as reimbursement for: Decreased water and sewer revenues; costs associated with flushing PFOA-contaminated water from municipal water lines; repairs to fire hydrants; and administrative and postage costs associated with letters mailed to residents, advertisements and the village's website.
The village would use the remaining $513,000 to pay engineering, legal and public relations consultants; officials have said those consultants would be paid through a settlement. MRB Group, which provided engineering services, would receive about $100,000. Glens Falls-based law firm FitzGerald Morris Baker Firth would receive approximately $410,000. Thate firm in turn hired Behan Communications, Inc. on its behalf. The Albany-based public relations firm would receive $100,000.
In his statement, Borge explained the village has limited resources and needed consultants to negotiate with the state and companies, and "communicate with the public and media to ensure residents were aware of the free bottled water program, the state's biomonitoring program, and similar activities."
He continued: "I am certain that without their diligent, experienced and dedicated expertise, the village would not have been in a position to successfully negotiate the agreement we are considering for approval. I am aware of no other community dealing with an environmental crisis such as this that has successfully negotiated such a valuable agreement on behalf of its residents."
Reach Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.
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