Some Hoosick Falls residents already exposed to chemicals in their drinking water may also have another form of pollutant leaking into their homes. Honeywell, under a consent order with the state, is conducting an investigation into the detection of chemicals at one of its former buildings in town. A meeting was held Tuesday night where company representatives spoke to residents.
Honeywell operated in Hoosick Falls from 1986 to 1996. The company, along with Saint-Gobain, has been deemed responsible by New York state authorities for the contamination of local water supplies with the chemical PFOA. That discovery has led to a year of public meetings, health concerns, and the establishment of a water filtration system.
But the focus Tuesday night was on another type of pollutant called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Recently, chemicals nicknamed TCE and 111-TCA were discovered at the location of Honeywell’s former John Street facility.
Now, under consent order with the New York State Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation, Honeywell is asking permission from residents to test their homes for VOCs.
John Morris, Global Remediation Director for Honeywell, explained to the crowd in the gymnasium that Honeywell is investigating 39 properties surrounding the former facility.
“We need an access agreement. We need to have your permission, and we won’t do it without your permission, to come in and do this testing,” said Morris.
Morris explained that VOCs travel into homes through vapors released from contaminated groundwater. Testing will be done in the basement and living areas of targeted homes.
Levels of VOCs detected in Hoosick Falls range from 6 parts per billion to more than 100 parts per billion. The state action level is 5 parts per billion.
Morris could not answer a question on how long residents may have been exposed.
“We are conducting an investigation to determine whether there is exposure now. What happened in the past is difficult to recreate,” said Morris.
According to DOH fact sheets, TCE is a known carcinogen. It can affect the central nervous system, liver, kidneys, reproductive and immune systems, and may also cause birth defects. Longterm exposure to 111-TCA can affect the heart, liver and nervous system, but it is not yet proven to cause cancer in humans.
For some residents in Hoosick Falls, who have been worried over their health form long-term exposure of PFOA for more than a year now, the meeting was as worrying as it was frustrating.
Carol Wilwol lives across the street from the former John Street site and also had been exposed to PFOA while connected to the village water system before a filtration system was installed.
“I’m really sick and tired of it. But the thing is, what are you going to do?”
Wilwol has lived in Hoosick Falls for 56 years, her entire life.
“It’s a great village, I love living here. And my concern about this VOC or whatever they’re calling it, is the levels in my home. I don’t want to leave my home. But I also don’t want to get sick from something,” said Wilwoll.
Questions persisted at the meeting for over an hour. But Justin Deming of the state Health Department cautioned the audience to not jump to conclusions about health effects this early in the investigation.
“In the event we do the testing and there’s no exposure, there’s no concerns for any sort of health outcome,” said Deming.
Honeywell’s consent order with the state covers the John Street site and a location on River Road. A separate consent order with Saint-Gobain and Honeywell includes the facilities on McCaffrey Street and Liberty Street.
Jim Morris, with DEC, explained the agency is looking at four sites in Hoosick Falls for VOCs and he expected more information to be released in the near future.
“We have to share the information with the private property owners first before we make that information public knowledge. In addition, in March, we’re planning an availability session to discuss all the available data we have with the four sites.”
Not discussed at Tuesday’s meeting was the proposed settlement between Saint-Gobain and Honeywell and the Village of Hoosick Falls over costs incurred by the village during the PFOA contamination case. An offer to reimburse the village for $850,000 was tabled by the village board for future consideration in January.