Levels Just Below Critical Threshold
By Doug La Rocque
Initial test results from the New York State Department of Health have found PFOA in Petersburgh’s water supply, at levels between 93.3 and 95.9 parts per trillion. The most recent US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advisory level for PFOA in drinking water is 400 parts per trillion, Region 2 of the Environmental Protection Agency about a month ago said they are developing a “lifetime health advisory level for PFOA” and recommended in the interim that people not consume water with a level at or above 100 ppt.
[private]Petersburgh Town Supervisor Peter Schaaphok said all parties involved agreed that they should err on the side of caution, and began to distribute bottled water to users of the Petersburgh Water District this past weekend. Schaaphok said test results from the Rensselaer County Department of Health have not yet been received, but will be released to the public as soon as they become available. Additional testing will cover private wells in the vicinity of Taconic Plastics, the suspected source of the contamination.
Schaaphok said his “main concern is to keep people calm. So far it has not been shown that a single person has died from PFOA ingestion, but it is dangerous and not something to fool around with.” He said so far it has been hyped so much, he is concerned more damage is done by that than by the actual chemical itself.
There was a steady stream of residents comin into the Town Hall to get bottled water on Sunday afternoon, February 21. One of those was Harold Burdick, who rents a home from Taconic on property adjacent to the facility. He said he is worried for his family, but does not want to become overly concerned until all the tests are in. He said, “you just can’t go near a faucet and pour water for cooking, it kind of stinks.” Burdick said he moved into his current residence in 2012, and he loves the home. But he also said “they tested the water then and I was told everything was OK. Now, I don’t know what to think.” He added, that when he heard the news this past weekend, he was mad and felt he had been lied to by Taconic officials.
Schaaphok said that obviously, the first and foremost concern in this matter is the health and safety of Petersburgh residents, and that he plans to stay focused on that. But he is also concerned about the future of Taconic. They have willingly offered to supply the bottled water, but most assuredly will also be facing significant legal costs. He said they have always been a good neighbor, and the company employs about 200 people in its Petersburgh facility. He said Taconic stopped using materials containing PFOA in their manufacturing process back in 2003.
Schaaphok said Taconic’s Environmental Compliance Officer recently told him they had tested water around the plant at that time and again in 2012, but he was unsure what levels of PFOA were detected at that time.
Waiting For More Testing Results, The Future Is Uncertain
Schaaphok says the test results that spurred the bottled water distribution came from NYS, but he has yet to hear back about the samples taken by Rensselaer County and the Town itself. He said if they all come in below 100 ppt, then maybe it will not be necessary to continue the water distribution. “I don’t think that will be the case with the wells around Taconic. I think that is going to be an ongoing problem.”
Since the water being supplied by Taconic Plastic wasn’t available until Monday, Rensselaer County stepped up to provide residents with water over the weekend. Regular distribution of the water will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 am to 1 pm, and Saturday from 10 am to Noon. This schedule will continue until further notice.
Rensselaer County Spokesman Chris Meyer said the County has sent out 44 letters to home owners with private wells within a half mile of the Taconic facility offering to test the water for PFOA contamination. He said most have taken them up on the offer. Some of that testing has already been done, with more scheduled for this week. He expects the results of the earlier tests as well as the County’s tests on the Petersburgh municipal water supply to be back by the end of the week.
Petersburgh Supervisor Peter Schaaphok said any testing results received by the Town will be posted immediately on the Town web site, so people can check there for updates on the situation.
Meyer said the County Health Department will be testing all municipal water systems in the County. To this point they have tested Berlin and Troy’s water and found it to be safe to drink.
NYS Department of Health has set up a hotline to answer residents’ questions about PFOA at 800-801-8092 (Monday – Friday from 9am to 8pm and Saturday from 9am to 3pm). DEC is conducting further analysis to determine the extent of the contamination in the Petersburgh area and will be developing an appropriate remediation plan to address the contamination at the Taconic facility.[/private]