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New York State Senate urged to pass bill for Hoosick Falls victims

Jun 12, 2016 12:03 am
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Andrea Sears reports that environmentalists are asking the state Legislature to extend the time limit facing those made ill by contaminants in the water at Hoosick Falls.

Rare and aggressive forms of cancer and thyroid disease are unusually common in Hoosick Falls. Tests have identified more than 2,000 people with high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, in their blood. The chemical, used in local factories owned by Saint-Gobain and Honeywell International, is in the town's drinking water.

Under current law, said Liz Moran, water and natural resources associate for Environmental Advocates of New York, those victims have only three years from the time they became sick to file a claim for damages.

"They discovered that they were sick maybe many years before they even knew that their water was polluted with this contaminant that was likely causing their illnesses," Moran said.

A bill to extend the deadline for filing a claim passed in the state Assembly by an overwhelming majority, but has stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

According to Moran, the bill, if passed, would establish a time limit to sue those responsible for the contamination that's based on the identification of the environmental hazard rather than on the date of a medical diagnosis.

"It extends the statute of limitations for three years past designation of a Superfund site," she said. "So those people, who now know what may have caused their personal injury, can go after Saint-Gobain and Honeywell."

However, with the current legislative session scheduled to end next week, time to pass the bill this year is running out. Although the bill was written specifically to address the situation in Hoosick Falls, Moran said there are federal and state Superfund sites across the state.

"What this bill does is allow communities recently designated as Superfund sites, they have the opportunity to sue the polluter for personal injury," she said.

Since the contamination was identified in Hoosick Falls, PFOA has been found in water systems in another nearby town, as well as towns in southern Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Details of the legislation, Assembly Bill A.9568A, are online at nysenate.gov.
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