Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/kathleen-marchione 2017-12-13T07:34:33+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com 5 Things to Watch For at State ‘Water Contamination’ Hearings 2016-08-28T04:00:00+00:00 2016-08-28T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6503:5-things-to-watch-for-at-state-water-contamination-hearings Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/25730694296_c20ebccbc8_z_1.jpg" alt="Cuomo DOH Hoosick Falls" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>photos via The Governor's Office on Flickr</p> <hr /> <p>After months of refusal and delay, the state Legislature is set to begin a series of hearings on drinking water contamination in New York. It became clear many months ago that the water in Hoosick Fall had been contaminated by a chemical known as PFOA and the first of three scheduled hearings will take place Tuesday in the village.</p> <p>Tuesday&rsquo;s hearing is a joint one by two state Senate committees, health and environmental conservation. The other two hearings are set to be joint Senate and Assembly hearings; they are scheduled for September 7 in Albany and September 12 on Long Island.</p> <p>The hearings, especially the first one, are expected to deal with how the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded to reports that the water in Hoosick Falls was contaminated and why it took so long to notify residents of the threat; as well as examining how to prevent and respond to future contamination.</p> <p>On the legislative hearings <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=he" target="_blank">website</a>, Tuesday's Senate hearing in Hoosick Falls is titled "Drinking Water Contramination," while the Sept. 7 and 12 joint hearings are titled "Water Quality and Contamination."</p> <p>Assembly Democrats, who hold that chamber&rsquo;s majority, announced in February that they would hold such hearings in April but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6299-will-for-water-contamination-hearings-nearly-vanishes-after-budget-deal" target="_blank">they never materialized</a>. The Assembly announced in early July that it would hold hearings in early September.</p> <p>Republicans in the Senate majority stood steadfast against hearings when they were first proposed last December. Public pressure mounted all legislative session and in July <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6430-public-outcry-leads-to-action-on-hoosick-falls-water-contamination" target="_blank">the Senate announced it would hold hearings</a>, six months after the plight of the residents of the small town came into public focus.</p> <p>Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan announced his conference would hold hearings &ldquo;in an effort to explore the sources of water contamination, examine state and federal oversight issues, and determine how we can prevent this from happening in the future.&rdquo;</p> <p>In his statement on the hearings, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, "Recent reports of water contamination in municipalities across the state have highlighted the need for a thorough review of measures to ensure clean and healthy water in our communities. Ensuring a safe water supply for our children and families is a top priority for us."</p> <p>After announcing intentions to hold hearings, the two houses subsequently said they would hold the two joint hearings.</p> <p>After months of advocacy, pressure, outrage, and denial, it is unclear what exactly the hearings will look like and what would make them successful.</p> <p><em><strong>Here are five important things to watch:</strong></em></p> <p><strong>1. Are all the stakeholders present?</strong></p> <p>Advocates warn that there won&rsquo;t be a full accounting of how the pollution in Hoosick Falls went unidentified and then was left unacted on for months without the presence of all stakeholders.</p> <p>&ldquo;They all have to be there from the polluters to the regulators; Honeywell, the EPA and DEC; we need them all there to figure out who knew what happened when and what went wrong,&rdquo; said Liz Moran of Environmental Advocates of New York, referring to the company believed to be responsible for poisoning the Hoosick Falls water and the federal and state environmental agencies.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration has put significant blame on the federal Environmental Protection Agency for not having adopted uniform standards for the impact of PFOA and pushed back heavily on assertions that it was slow to respond to the problem. How much the Cuomo administration will participate in the hearings and how open it will be remain to be seen.</p> <p>Tuesday&rsquo;s Hoosick Falls hearing begins at 10:30 a.m. and is expected to go all day and into the evening, with members of the public testifying both by appointment and on a walk-in basis later in the day.</p> <p>According to the August 12 Senate majority press advisory about the hearing, Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon and Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Tom O&rsquo;Mara will lead the hearing; they&rsquo;ll be joined by Senator Kathy Marchione, who represents the Hoosick Falls area, and other senators. &ldquo;The purpose will be to explore the sources of water contamination, examine local, state, and federal oversight issues, and hear from experts, local residents, and others on what can be done to assist affected communities and mitigate future incidents.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>2. Will hearings lead to a plan?</strong></p> <p>During this year&rsquo;s legislative session, while fallout from Hoosick Falls was fresh and media was focused heavily on the issue, the Legislature passed one bill that had anything to do with the contamination, and passing that bill was no simple task. The legislation extended the time victims of environmental contamination have to sue polluters.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/25459519510_7a1a6bd8c2_z.jpg" alt="marchione hoosick falls" width="300" height="200" style="margin: 5px; float: left;" />The bill appeared set to pass until late in session when Marchione (pictured), a Republican who represents Hoosick Falls, introduced a pro-business amendment that would have ensured that the bill did not become law. After outcry from her constituents she reversed herself and the bill passed both houses of the Legislature.</p> <p>In May the EPA released new standards for safe PFOA levels in drinking water that are significantly lower than its 2009 standards. Wells in Suffolk County have been shown to be over the EPA&rsquo;s recommended limits at the impacted communities have taken action. Meanwhile, more communities are grappling with lead found in their drinking water supply and it is clear that the state needs a plan of action.</p> <p>Environmental groups say the Legislature will need to move to actually prevent these kinds of incidents and prepare the state to respond quickly before the public is impacted. &ldquo;We need a plan for the rest of the state,&rdquo; said Moran. &ldquo;Anything less than that would count as failure.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>3. Is there enough political will?</strong></p> <p>A number of legislators and many Hoosick Falls residents believe that the Legislature stalled on holding hearings knowing that they would anger the Cuomo administration. The Assembly scheduled hearings for April, right around the time the budget was due, and they never came to fruition.</p> <p>At the time Republican Assemblymember Steve McLaughlin, who represents Hoosick Falls, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6299-will-for-water-contamination-hearings-nearly-vanishes-after-budget-deal" target="_blank">told Gotham Gazette</a> he was concerned the hearings were being used as a bargaining chip in budget negotiations. &ldquo;I told them in February: &lsquo;Don&rsquo;t use my constituents as leverage,&rsquo; and it looks like that is exactly what happened,&rdquo; McLaughlin <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6299-will-for-water-contamination-hearings-nearly-vanishes-after-budget-deal" target="_blank">told Gotham Gazette in late April</a>&nbsp;not long after the new budget was finalized.</p> <p>It will now be up to the Legislature to probe the Cuomo administration&rsquo;s response and perhaps delve where the administration would rather they didn&rsquo;t. The administration has repeatedly stated they took proper action but, <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/06/new-documents-show-cuomo-administration-dismissal-of-epa-warnings-on-hoosick-falls-102373" target="_blank">as reported by Politico New York</a>, documents show they resisted the EPA&rsquo;s calls for action.</p> <p>In June, Cuomo defended his administration. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know how the state could have been more aggressive or what else we could have possibly done,&rdquo; the governor told reporters, <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2016/06/cuomo-defends-state-response-to-hoosick-falls-contamination/" target="_blank">according to State of Politics</a>. &ldquo;We did the testing, we installed filters on every home that needed them, we added filters in buildings frankly that didn&rsquo;t need them just to make people more comfortable. I don&rsquo;t think we could have been more aggressive.&rdquo;</p> <p>Shaun Francis, a Democrat who is challenging Marchione for her seat, said he is concerned that Senate Republicans won&rsquo;t want to fully explore the response to Hoosick Falls. &ldquo;They were the last ones on board for hearings and my fear is they are going to try to paper over the failures,&rdquo; Francis told Gotham Gazette last month. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard to believe people sounding the alarm bells didn&rsquo;t let Marchione know.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>4. Will the two houses be able to work together?</strong></p> <p>The Democrat-controlled Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate are diametrically opposed on a number of issues, but advocates hope the they can find a way to get on the same page as voters have become increasingly aware of potential water contamination and the state&rsquo;s inadequate response.</p> <p>Republicans have traditionally been opposed to increased regulations on businesses so the issue could become a flashpoint.</p> <p>A number of Assembly Members have voiced concerns about underfunding the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and they may push for increased staffing, something that would make their union allies happy.</p> <p>Each house may also have different considerations when it comes to relationships with the Cuomo administration. Senate Republicans have been close to Cuomo since he took office, with the governor doing little to help his fellow Democrats win seats in that house. They also helped Cuomo on a number of thorny issues in recent budgets. Meanwhile, Heastie has clashed with Cuomo on the governor&rsquo;s treatment of Mayor Bill de Blasio and various New York City issues.</p> <p>Cuomo has had harsh words for the Legislature on a few occasions in recent weeks.</p> <p><strong>5. Will election-year concerns come into play?</strong></p> <p>All 213 seats of the state Legislature are on the ballot this year -- 150 Assembly and 63 Senate. Voters are evaluating the effectiveness and responsiveness of their local elected officials and the function of state government as a whole.</p> <p>Both houses of the Legislature put off hearings for months and only gave in after intense protest from Hoosick Falls residents and environmentalists, as well as calls from members of Congress like Democratic Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, as well as Republican Rep. Chris Gibson.</p> <p>Gillibrand held an emotional hearing in Hoosick Falls where she heard from residents who described learning they had been poisoned by their own drinking water.</p> <p>Now both state legislative houses will have to examine whether the laws they put into place over the years were inadequate. Senate Republicans will have to assess how to confront the issue given that Marchione faces a general election challenge from an opponent who is running principally on the notion that government failed the district.</p> <p>Many expect legislators to present the issue as one that caught everyone by surprise and must be acted on quickly now that everyone&rsquo;s eyes are open to it. Environmentalists and Hoosick Falls residents are unlikely to accept that response.</p> <p>&ldquo;Clean drinking water is now on the forefront of voters&rsquo; minds,&rdquo; said Travis Proulx of Environmental Advocates of New York. &ldquo;It is something everyone takes for granted until people get sick. People assume the government will protect them and they are finding out that wasn&rsquo;t the case. Water quality has entered the political realm in a way that we haven&rsquo;t seen in modern New York politics.&rdquo;</p> <p>Moran said she thinks that after feeling the pressure from Hoosick Falls residents at the end of legislative session, legislators got the message that not only did hearings have to happen, but they have to produce results. &ldquo;Kathy Marchione felt the voters&rsquo; wrath after she amended her bill. I hope everyone is taking this very seriously,&rdquo; Moran said. &ldquo;There are very high expectations in Hoosick Falls for what these hearings will deliver. New York voters have high expectations.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/25730694296_c20ebccbc8_z_1.jpg" alt="Cuomo DOH Hoosick Falls" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>photos via The Governor's Office on Flickr</p> <hr /> <p>After months of refusal and delay, the state Legislature is set to begin a series of hearings on drinking water contamination in New York. It became clear many months ago that the water in Hoosick Fall had been contaminated by a chemical known as PFOA and the first of three scheduled hearings will take place Tuesday in the village.</p> <p>Tuesday&rsquo;s hearing is a joint one by two state Senate committees, health and environmental conservation. The other two hearings are set to be joint Senate and Assembly hearings; they are scheduled for September 7 in Albany and September 12 on Long Island.</p> <p>The hearings, especially the first one, are expected to deal with how the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded to reports that the water in Hoosick Falls was contaminated and why it took so long to notify residents of the threat; as well as examining how to prevent and respond to future contamination.</p> <p>On the legislative hearings <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=he" target="_blank">website</a>, Tuesday's Senate hearing in Hoosick Falls is titled "Drinking Water Contramination," while the Sept. 7 and 12 joint hearings are titled "Water Quality and Contamination."</p> <p>Assembly Democrats, who hold that chamber&rsquo;s majority, announced in February that they would hold such hearings in April but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6299-will-for-water-contamination-hearings-nearly-vanishes-after-budget-deal" target="_blank">they never materialized</a>. The Assembly announced in early July that it would hold hearings in early September.</p> <p>Republicans in the Senate majority stood steadfast against hearings when they were first proposed last December. Public pressure mounted all legislative session and in July <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6430-public-outcry-leads-to-action-on-hoosick-falls-water-contamination" target="_blank">the Senate announced it would hold hearings</a>, six months after the plight of the residents of the small town came into public focus.</p> <p>Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan announced his conference would hold hearings &ldquo;in an effort to explore the sources of water contamination, examine state and federal oversight issues, and determine how we can prevent this from happening in the future.&rdquo;</p> <p>In his statement on the hearings, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, "Recent reports of water contamination in municipalities across the state have highlighted the need for a thorough review of measures to ensure clean and healthy water in our communities. Ensuring a safe water supply for our children and families is a top priority for us."</p> <p>After announcing intentions to hold hearings, the two houses subsequently said they would hold the two joint hearings.</p> <p>After months of advocacy, pressure, outrage, and denial, it is unclear what exactly the hearings will look like and what would make them successful.</p> <p><em><strong>Here are five important things to watch:</strong></em></p> <p><strong>1. Are all the stakeholders present?</strong></p> <p>Advocates warn that there won&rsquo;t be a full accounting of how the pollution in Hoosick Falls went unidentified and then was left unacted on for months without the presence of all stakeholders.</p> <p>&ldquo;They all have to be there from the polluters to the regulators; Honeywell, the EPA and DEC; we need them all there to figure out who knew what happened when and what went wrong,&rdquo; said Liz Moran of Environmental Advocates of New York, referring to the company believed to be responsible for poisoning the Hoosick Falls water and the federal and state environmental agencies.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration has put significant blame on the federal Environmental Protection Agency for not having adopted uniform standards for the impact of PFOA and pushed back heavily on assertions that it was slow to respond to the problem. How much the Cuomo administration will participate in the hearings and how open it will be remain to be seen.</p> <p>Tuesday&rsquo;s Hoosick Falls hearing begins at 10:30 a.m. and is expected to go all day and into the evening, with members of the public testifying both by appointment and on a walk-in basis later in the day.</p> <p>According to the August 12 Senate majority press advisory about the hearing, Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon and Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Tom O&rsquo;Mara will lead the hearing; they&rsquo;ll be joined by Senator Kathy Marchione, who represents the Hoosick Falls area, and other senators. &ldquo;The purpose will be to explore the sources of water contamination, examine local, state, and federal oversight issues, and hear from experts, local residents, and others on what can be done to assist affected communities and mitigate future incidents.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>2. Will hearings lead to a plan?</strong></p> <p>During this year&rsquo;s legislative session, while fallout from Hoosick Falls was fresh and media was focused heavily on the issue, the Legislature passed one bill that had anything to do with the contamination, and passing that bill was no simple task. The legislation extended the time victims of environmental contamination have to sue polluters.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/25459519510_7a1a6bd8c2_z.jpg" alt="marchione hoosick falls" width="300" height="200" style="margin: 5px; float: left;" />The bill appeared set to pass until late in session when Marchione (pictured), a Republican who represents Hoosick Falls, introduced a pro-business amendment that would have ensured that the bill did not become law. After outcry from her constituents she reversed herself and the bill passed both houses of the Legislature.</p> <p>In May the EPA released new standards for safe PFOA levels in drinking water that are significantly lower than its 2009 standards. Wells in Suffolk County have been shown to be over the EPA&rsquo;s recommended limits at the impacted communities have taken action. Meanwhile, more communities are grappling with lead found in their drinking water supply and it is clear that the state needs a plan of action.</p> <p>Environmental groups say the Legislature will need to move to actually prevent these kinds of incidents and prepare the state to respond quickly before the public is impacted. &ldquo;We need a plan for the rest of the state,&rdquo; said Moran. &ldquo;Anything less than that would count as failure.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>3. Is there enough political will?</strong></p> <p>A number of legislators and many Hoosick Falls residents believe that the Legislature stalled on holding hearings knowing that they would anger the Cuomo administration. The Assembly scheduled hearings for April, right around the time the budget was due, and they never came to fruition.</p> <p>At the time Republican Assemblymember Steve McLaughlin, who represents Hoosick Falls, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6299-will-for-water-contamination-hearings-nearly-vanishes-after-budget-deal" target="_blank">told Gotham Gazette</a> he was concerned the hearings were being used as a bargaining chip in budget negotiations. &ldquo;I told them in February: &lsquo;Don&rsquo;t use my constituents as leverage,&rsquo; and it looks like that is exactly what happened,&rdquo; McLaughlin <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6299-will-for-water-contamination-hearings-nearly-vanishes-after-budget-deal" target="_blank">told Gotham Gazette in late April</a>&nbsp;not long after the new budget was finalized.</p> <p>It will now be up to the Legislature to probe the Cuomo administration&rsquo;s response and perhaps delve where the administration would rather they didn&rsquo;t. The administration has repeatedly stated they took proper action but, <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/06/new-documents-show-cuomo-administration-dismissal-of-epa-warnings-on-hoosick-falls-102373" target="_blank">as reported by Politico New York</a>, documents show they resisted the EPA&rsquo;s calls for action.</p> <p>In June, Cuomo defended his administration. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know how the state could have been more aggressive or what else we could have possibly done,&rdquo; the governor told reporters, <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2016/06/cuomo-defends-state-response-to-hoosick-falls-contamination/" target="_blank">according to State of Politics</a>. &ldquo;We did the testing, we installed filters on every home that needed them, we added filters in buildings frankly that didn&rsquo;t need them just to make people more comfortable. I don&rsquo;t think we could have been more aggressive.&rdquo;</p> <p>Shaun Francis, a Democrat who is challenging Marchione for her seat, said he is concerned that Senate Republicans won&rsquo;t want to fully explore the response to Hoosick Falls. &ldquo;They were the last ones on board for hearings and my fear is they are going to try to paper over the failures,&rdquo; Francis told Gotham Gazette last month. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard to believe people sounding the alarm bells didn&rsquo;t let Marchione know.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>4. Will the two houses be able to work together?</strong></p> <p>The Democrat-controlled Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate are diametrically opposed on a number of issues, but advocates hope the they can find a way to get on the same page as voters have become increasingly aware of potential water contamination and the state&rsquo;s inadequate response.</p> <p>Republicans have traditionally been opposed to increased regulations on businesses so the issue could become a flashpoint.</p> <p>A number of Assembly Members have voiced concerns about underfunding the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and they may push for increased staffing, something that would make their union allies happy.</p> <p>Each house may also have different considerations when it comes to relationships with the Cuomo administration. Senate Republicans have been close to Cuomo since he took office, with the governor doing little to help his fellow Democrats win seats in that house. They also helped Cuomo on a number of thorny issues in recent budgets. Meanwhile, Heastie has clashed with Cuomo on the governor&rsquo;s treatment of Mayor Bill de Blasio and various New York City issues.</p> <p>Cuomo has had harsh words for the Legislature on a few occasions in recent weeks.</p> <p><strong>5. Will election-year concerns come into play?</strong></p> <p>All 213 seats of the state Legislature are on the ballot this year -- 150 Assembly and 63 Senate. Voters are evaluating the effectiveness and responsiveness of their local elected officials and the function of state government as a whole.</p> <p>Both houses of the Legislature put off hearings for months and only gave in after intense protest from Hoosick Falls residents and environmentalists, as well as calls from members of Congress like Democratic Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, as well as Republican Rep. Chris Gibson.</p> <p>Gillibrand held an emotional hearing in Hoosick Falls where she heard from residents who described learning they had been poisoned by their own drinking water.</p> <p>Now both state legislative houses will have to examine whether the laws they put into place over the years were inadequate. Senate Republicans will have to assess how to confront the issue given that Marchione faces a general election challenge from an opponent who is running principally on the notion that government failed the district.</p> <p>Many expect legislators to present the issue as one that caught everyone by surprise and must be acted on quickly now that everyone&rsquo;s eyes are open to it. Environmentalists and Hoosick Falls residents are unlikely to accept that response.</p> <p>&ldquo;Clean drinking water is now on the forefront of voters&rsquo; minds,&rdquo; said Travis Proulx of Environmental Advocates of New York. &ldquo;It is something everyone takes for granted until people get sick. People assume the government will protect them and they are finding out that wasn&rsquo;t the case. Water quality has entered the political realm in a way that we haven&rsquo;t seen in modern New York politics.&rdquo;</p> <p>Moran said she thinks that after feeling the pressure from Hoosick Falls residents at the end of legislative session, legislators got the message that not only did hearings have to happen, but they have to produce results. &ldquo;Kathy Marchione felt the voters&rsquo; wrath after she amended her bill. I hope everyone is taking this very seriously,&rdquo; Moran said. &ldquo;There are very high expectations in Hoosick Falls for what these hearings will deliver. New York voters have high expectations.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Public Outcry Leads to Hearings On Hoosick Falls Water Contamination 2016-07-08T15:50:09+00:00 2016-07-08T15:50:09+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6430:public-outcry-leads-to-action-on-hoosick-falls-water-contamination Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/M_images/25635829372_746c4731eb_z.jpg" alt="25635829372 746c4731eb z" width="600" height="398" />&nbsp;</p> <p>Cuomo tours Hoosick Falls water filtration system with Senator Marchione (Photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Earlier this week Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced that the Assembly will hold public hearings on water quality in early September. The hearings are considered a long-overdue victory for environmental advocates and victims of water contamination emergencies across the state, such as in Suffolk County, Petersburgh, Newburgh, and most notably, in the village of Hoosick Falls. It was also seen as a potentially embarrassing development for Gov. Andrew Cuomo&rsquo;s administration, which has fought off the perception that it failed to act quickly enough to address contamination in Hoosick Falls.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">On Friday afternoon Senate Republicans announced they will also hold hearings into water contamination in Hoosick Falls.</span></span></p> <p>Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan wrote in a statement that the "New York State Senate will hold public hearings in an effort to explore the sources of water contamination, examine state and federal oversight issues, and determine how we can prevent this from happening in the future. The first of those hearings will take place in Hoosick Falls. It goes without saying that we welcome the opportunity to partner with the Assembly to maximize the focus on this important issue."</p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Shortly after the Assembly hearings were announced this week,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/07/congressional-oversight-committee-seeking-cuomo-administration-communication-on-hoosick-falls-103592" target="_blank">Politico NY</a>&nbsp;reported that a congressional oversight committee has sought records from the Cuomo administration detailing its response to the water crisis in Hoosick Falls. Meanwhile, major New York electeds such as Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican Rep. Chris Gibson have called for hearings on the federal level. Gillibrand met with Hoosick Falls residents on Friday for a roundtable on PFOA, the chemical that has contaminated the drinking water there.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">&ldquo;There's been a lot of work. A lot of moms in Hoosick Falls, we've been working together for weeks on this, taken to social media, holding news conferences, talking to local media,&rdquo; Michele Baker, a local Hoosick Falls resident and staunch advocate for government action on this issue, told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;All to get our message out that for eighteen months, the Cuomo administration knew that our water was unsafe to drink, but they continued to allow us to drink it. We want the truth, and the truth is coming hopefully in the form of hearings.&rdquo;</span></span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Hoosick Falls, a small village of 4,000 people in Rensselaer County, has been crippled by a water contamination crisis lasting almost two years to date. Concerns about the village&rsquo;s water supply arose in 2014. Resident Michael Hickey asked to have the village&rsquo;s water supply tested as early as August of 2014 for the manufacturing chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), after his father died of kidney cancer. In November, water sampling results indicated PFOA levels of 180 parts per trillion to 540 parts per trillion; far greater than a provisional health advisory established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2009 of 400 parts per trillion, according to Hoosick Falls&rsquo;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.villageofhoosickfalls.com/Water/timeline.html" target="_blank">website</a>. Yet, the EPA did not issue an official&nbsp;<a href="http://www.villageofhoosickfalls.com/Media/PDF/EPA-PFOA-letter-112515.pdf" target="_blank">warning</a>&nbsp;to the village against drinking the water until one year later, at the end of November 2015. The Cuomo administration&nbsp;<a href="http://www.villageofhoosickfalls.com/Water/Documents/StateAnnouncementPressRelease-01272016.pdf" target="_blank">delayed</a>&nbsp;even longer, failing to classify PFOA as a hazardous substance and unlock State Superfund Site dollars to address the contamination until late January of this year. The governor pointed the finger at federal authorities and has said he doesn't think there is anything else the state could have done - a response that has intensified the calls for public legislative hearings.</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">In February, a bipartisan group of Assembly members announced that hearings on the Hoosick Falls water crisis would be held in April to examine the causes of water contamination issues statewide, as well as the government&rsquo;s slow response to them. As April approached, however, support for the hearings essentially&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6299-will-for-water-contamination-hearings-nearly-vanishes-after-budget-deal" target="_blank">vanished</a>. This sudden elimination of support may have been a product of private budget negotiations between the governor, the Assembly speaker, and the Senate majority leader, according to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/04/assembly-hearings-on-hoosick-falls-canceled-for-now-033456" target="_blank">Politico NY</a>.</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">On May 19, the EPA announced a new lifetime health advisory for PFOA, set at 70 parts per trillion. With the new advisory level, several other localities and communities across the country also&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2016/05/19/with-new-pfoa-drinking-water-advisory-dozens-of-communities-suddenly-have-dangerous-water/" target="_blank">suddenly found themselves with toxic drinking water</a>, though the EPA still considers PFOA an unregulated chemical. This makes the advisory non-enforceable, and government response far from guaranteed.</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">&ldquo;It's kind of surreal,&rdquo; Baker said, of the daily challenges faced by residents who lack a safe source of water. &ldquo;You totally take for granted going to the faucet in the morning to brush your teeth, to fill up the dog's bowl with water. So many times you go to the sink, and have to stop yourself, even six months into this year.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Baker&rsquo;s water comes not from the municipal water supply, but a private well, like thousands of other Hoosick Falls residents. In order to decontaminate her water supply, Baker had to have a private filter installed in her home, a process she said &ldquo;was a mess. They weren't really sure what parts they needed, how to install them, how to get them to work.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Amidst filters that continue to malfunction, long waits for PFOA test results of private wells, and ongoing bottled water rationing to residents from the local grocery store, the long-overdue hearings are apparently back on. They will be held by the state Assembly in Albany and Suffolk County in early September. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie appears to fully support the hearings, stating in the announcement, "Recent reports of water contamination in municipalities across the state have highlighted the need for a thorough review of measures to ensure clean and healthy water in our communities.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">For Liz Moran of Environmental Advocates of New York, the hearings are an important first step in the prevention of future contamination issues. &ldquo;We think it's important that what went wrong in Hoosick Falls, in Petersburgh, in Newburgh, is uncovered, to make sure that those mistakes don't happen again,&rdquo; Moran told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;And to make sure that we learn from that experience, and we learn what to do going forward to make sure that we don't see any more water contamination in the state.&rdquo;</span></p> <p>Moran and others, however, agree that an important piece of the effort was previously missing without the state Senate&rsquo;s support for the hearings. Moran recalls, &ldquo;Senator Marchione earlier called for hearings, but since then she's been backtracking. And it's odd because she represents Hoosick Falls, and the residents in that community have been calling for hearings for as long as this has been going on. So we really hope the Senate heeds their call and joins the Assembly on this.&rdquo;</p> <p>Before the Senate committed to holding hearings, Baker also echoed this sentiment, saying, &ldquo;No one knows, except Senator Kathy Marchione and Senate Leader John Flanagan, why they will not call for Senate hearings. It's unfortunate, but I think everything else has fallen into place under public pressure." Senator Marchione&rsquo;s office did not respond to Gotham Gazette&rsquo;s request for comment.</p> <p>Perhaps in response to this "public pressure" the Senate finally stepped in on July 8, when Majority Leader Flanagan announced they would also be holding hearings, the first of which will take place in Hoosick Falls. The hearings are scheduled in August, prior to the Assembly's September hearings, most likely to make up for the Senate's delayed response to address residents' concerns. Senate Republicans enjoy a close relationship with Cuomo and many believe they had been working to shield the Governor from potentially embarrassing hearings.</p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">While the August and September hearings appear to be focused on the prevention of future water contamination issues in the state, the federal government is also initiating a probe into the response of the EPA and state and county health departments to the Hoosick Falls contamination issue. According to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Congress-to-probe-Hoosick-Falls-water-crisis-8345384.php" target="_blank">Times Union</a>, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent letters to both Cuomo and the EPA on Wednesday, calling for information about their responses to the crisis. According to&nbsp;<a href="http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/us-house-probes-response-toxic-chemical-drinking-water-40407809" target="_blank">ABC News</a>, the Committee wrote to Cuomo that it will be &ldquo;looking into whether residents received misleading information that indicated the water posed no health risks, which exacerbated the crisis."</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">On Thursday, Cuomo spokesperson James Allen responded to the House Committee&rsquo;s letter with the Governor&rsquo;s willingness to cooperate with the investigation, albeit attempting to take some of the blame for the situation off the state level. &ldquo;We will gladly share our experience in New York to clarify the facts and the steps we have taken to address these challenges,&rdquo; Allen said in a statement. &ldquo;We hope the end result is that Congress and the federal government act swiftly to prioritize and to implement uniform, nationwide regulations of PFOA and similar, currently unregulated contaminants. No town, city, or state should have to fear the water they are drinking. With clear federal regulations, we can achieve that goal.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Moran praised the federal probe, saying &ldquo;The residents in Hoosick Falls have been very dismayed, and really don't trust the government right now. They are frustrated that the pollution was supposedly known by the state for well over a year before they learned anything about it. So hopefully this probe will give them some answers and solace.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Even if residents get the answers they desire, Baker feels it unlikely that relations will ever go back to normal between Hoosick Falls and the government, especially regarding the water supply, saying &ldquo;many, many, residents will never trust it.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Current and former residents in Hoosick Falls and other communities continue to struggle with the health effects of water contamination, many of which, like the cancers PFOA has been linked too, are irreversible. Baker stressed that water contamination is an issue that affects everyone at a personal level; &ldquo;This didn't need to happen to my family and friends,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Every resident in Hoosick Falls now carries some measure of PFOA in their blood; and not by choice.&rdquo;</span></p> <p>

***
by Amanda Sherwin, Gotham Gazette
      

Read more by this writer

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with news of the Senate hearings.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/M_images/25635829372_746c4731eb_z.jpg" alt="25635829372 746c4731eb z" width="600" height="398" />&nbsp;</p> <p>Cuomo tours Hoosick Falls water filtration system with Senator Marchione (Photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Earlier this week Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced that the Assembly will hold public hearings on water quality in early September. The hearings are considered a long-overdue victory for environmental advocates and victims of water contamination emergencies across the state, such as in Suffolk County, Petersburgh, Newburgh, and most notably, in the village of Hoosick Falls. It was also seen as a potentially embarrassing development for Gov. Andrew Cuomo&rsquo;s administration, which has fought off the perception that it failed to act quickly enough to address contamination in Hoosick Falls.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">On Friday afternoon Senate Republicans announced they will also hold hearings into water contamination in Hoosick Falls.</span></span></p> <p>Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan wrote in a statement that the "New York State Senate will hold public hearings in an effort to explore the sources of water contamination, examine state and federal oversight issues, and determine how we can prevent this from happening in the future. The first of those hearings will take place in Hoosick Falls. It goes without saying that we welcome the opportunity to partner with the Assembly to maximize the focus on this important issue."</p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Shortly after the Assembly hearings were announced this week,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/07/congressional-oversight-committee-seeking-cuomo-administration-communication-on-hoosick-falls-103592" target="_blank">Politico NY</a>&nbsp;reported that a congressional oversight committee has sought records from the Cuomo administration detailing its response to the water crisis in Hoosick Falls. Meanwhile, major New York electeds such as Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican Rep. Chris Gibson have called for hearings on the federal level. Gillibrand met with Hoosick Falls residents on Friday for a roundtable on PFOA, the chemical that has contaminated the drinking water there.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">&ldquo;There's been a lot of work. A lot of moms in Hoosick Falls, we've been working together for weeks on this, taken to social media, holding news conferences, talking to local media,&rdquo; Michele Baker, a local Hoosick Falls resident and staunch advocate for government action on this issue, told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;All to get our message out that for eighteen months, the Cuomo administration knew that our water was unsafe to drink, but they continued to allow us to drink it. We want the truth, and the truth is coming hopefully in the form of hearings.&rdquo;</span></span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Hoosick Falls, a small village of 4,000 people in Rensselaer County, has been crippled by a water contamination crisis lasting almost two years to date. Concerns about the village&rsquo;s water supply arose in 2014. Resident Michael Hickey asked to have the village&rsquo;s water supply tested as early as August of 2014 for the manufacturing chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), after his father died of kidney cancer. In November, water sampling results indicated PFOA levels of 180 parts per trillion to 540 parts per trillion; far greater than a provisional health advisory established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2009 of 400 parts per trillion, according to Hoosick Falls&rsquo;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.villageofhoosickfalls.com/Water/timeline.html" target="_blank">website</a>. Yet, the EPA did not issue an official&nbsp;<a href="http://www.villageofhoosickfalls.com/Media/PDF/EPA-PFOA-letter-112515.pdf" target="_blank">warning</a>&nbsp;to the village against drinking the water until one year later, at the end of November 2015. The Cuomo administration&nbsp;<a href="http://www.villageofhoosickfalls.com/Water/Documents/StateAnnouncementPressRelease-01272016.pdf" target="_blank">delayed</a>&nbsp;even longer, failing to classify PFOA as a hazardous substance and unlock State Superfund Site dollars to address the contamination until late January of this year. The governor pointed the finger at federal authorities and has said he doesn't think there is anything else the state could have done - a response that has intensified the calls for public legislative hearings.</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">In February, a bipartisan group of Assembly members announced that hearings on the Hoosick Falls water crisis would be held in April to examine the causes of water contamination issues statewide, as well as the government&rsquo;s slow response to them. As April approached, however, support for the hearings essentially&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6299-will-for-water-contamination-hearings-nearly-vanishes-after-budget-deal" target="_blank">vanished</a>. This sudden elimination of support may have been a product of private budget negotiations between the governor, the Assembly speaker, and the Senate majority leader, according to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/04/assembly-hearings-on-hoosick-falls-canceled-for-now-033456" target="_blank">Politico NY</a>.</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">On May 19, the EPA announced a new lifetime health advisory for PFOA, set at 70 parts per trillion. With the new advisory level, several other localities and communities across the country also&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2016/05/19/with-new-pfoa-drinking-water-advisory-dozens-of-communities-suddenly-have-dangerous-water/" target="_blank">suddenly found themselves with toxic drinking water</a>, though the EPA still considers PFOA an unregulated chemical. This makes the advisory non-enforceable, and government response far from guaranteed.</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">&ldquo;It's kind of surreal,&rdquo; Baker said, of the daily challenges faced by residents who lack a safe source of water. &ldquo;You totally take for granted going to the faucet in the morning to brush your teeth, to fill up the dog's bowl with water. So many times you go to the sink, and have to stop yourself, even six months into this year.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Baker&rsquo;s water comes not from the municipal water supply, but a private well, like thousands of other Hoosick Falls residents. In order to decontaminate her water supply, Baker had to have a private filter installed in her home, a process she said &ldquo;was a mess. They weren't really sure what parts they needed, how to install them, how to get them to work.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Amidst filters that continue to malfunction, long waits for PFOA test results of private wells, and ongoing bottled water rationing to residents from the local grocery store, the long-overdue hearings are apparently back on. They will be held by the state Assembly in Albany and Suffolk County in early September. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie appears to fully support the hearings, stating in the announcement, "Recent reports of water contamination in municipalities across the state have highlighted the need for a thorough review of measures to ensure clean and healthy water in our communities.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">For Liz Moran of Environmental Advocates of New York, the hearings are an important first step in the prevention of future contamination issues. &ldquo;We think it's important that what went wrong in Hoosick Falls, in Petersburgh, in Newburgh, is uncovered, to make sure that those mistakes don't happen again,&rdquo; Moran told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;And to make sure that we learn from that experience, and we learn what to do going forward to make sure that we don't see any more water contamination in the state.&rdquo;</span></p> <p>Moran and others, however, agree that an important piece of the effort was previously missing without the state Senate&rsquo;s support for the hearings. Moran recalls, &ldquo;Senator Marchione earlier called for hearings, but since then she's been backtracking. And it's odd because she represents Hoosick Falls, and the residents in that community have been calling for hearings for as long as this has been going on. So we really hope the Senate heeds their call and joins the Assembly on this.&rdquo;</p> <p>Before the Senate committed to holding hearings, Baker also echoed this sentiment, saying, &ldquo;No one knows, except Senator Kathy Marchione and Senate Leader John Flanagan, why they will not call for Senate hearings. It's unfortunate, but I think everything else has fallen into place under public pressure." Senator Marchione&rsquo;s office did not respond to Gotham Gazette&rsquo;s request for comment.</p> <p>Perhaps in response to this "public pressure" the Senate finally stepped in on July 8, when Majority Leader Flanagan announced they would also be holding hearings, the first of which will take place in Hoosick Falls. The hearings are scheduled in August, prior to the Assembly's September hearings, most likely to make up for the Senate's delayed response to address residents' concerns. Senate Republicans enjoy a close relationship with Cuomo and many believe they had been working to shield the Governor from potentially embarrassing hearings.</p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">While the August and September hearings appear to be focused on the prevention of future water contamination issues in the state, the federal government is also initiating a probe into the response of the EPA and state and county health departments to the Hoosick Falls contamination issue. According to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Congress-to-probe-Hoosick-Falls-water-crisis-8345384.php" target="_blank">Times Union</a>, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent letters to both Cuomo and the EPA on Wednesday, calling for information about their responses to the crisis. According to&nbsp;<a href="http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/us-house-probes-response-toxic-chemical-drinking-water-40407809" target="_blank">ABC News</a>, the Committee wrote to Cuomo that it will be &ldquo;looking into whether residents received misleading information that indicated the water posed no health risks, which exacerbated the crisis."</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">On Thursday, Cuomo spokesperson James Allen responded to the House Committee&rsquo;s letter with the Governor&rsquo;s willingness to cooperate with the investigation, albeit attempting to take some of the blame for the situation off the state level. &ldquo;We will gladly share our experience in New York to clarify the facts and the steps we have taken to address these challenges,&rdquo; Allen said in a statement. &ldquo;We hope the end result is that Congress and the federal government act swiftly to prioritize and to implement uniform, nationwide regulations of PFOA and similar, currently unregulated contaminants. No town, city, or state should have to fear the water they are drinking. With clear federal regulations, we can achieve that goal.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Moran praised the federal probe, saying &ldquo;The residents in Hoosick Falls have been very dismayed, and really don't trust the government right now. They are frustrated that the pollution was supposedly known by the state for well over a year before they learned anything about it. So hopefully this probe will give them some answers and solace.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Even if residents get the answers they desire, Baker feels it unlikely that relations will ever go back to normal between Hoosick Falls and the government, especially regarding the water supply, saying &ldquo;many, many, residents will never trust it.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Current and former residents in Hoosick Falls and other communities continue to struggle with the health effects of water contamination, many of which, like the cancers PFOA has been linked too, are irreversible. Baker stressed that water contamination is an issue that affects everyone at a personal level; &ldquo;This didn't need to happen to my family and friends,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Every resident in Hoosick Falls now carries some measure of PFOA in their blood; and not by choice.&rdquo;</span></p> <p>

***
by Amanda Sherwin, Gotham Gazette
      

Read more by this writer

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with news of the Senate hearings.</p>