Aug 06, 2023

» Glenville seeking damages for ‘forever chemical’ contamination

GLENVILLE — For years, drinking water in Glenville has been contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Now, town lawmakers are hoping to collect damages in hopes to address the issue.

Town Board members on Wednesday voted to retain the services of Robert King and Stag Liuzza, a law firm representing thousands of municipalities across the country in a class action lawsuit against the makers of the chemicals — known collectively as PFAS contaminants, or “forever chemicals ” — like 3M and DuPont.

“This law firm has led the litigation process and it’s best to go with them because they’re so invested in it,” said Supervisor Chris Koetzle. “We’re hoping to get a settlement from this.”

The agreement will not cost the town any money up front, but comes with a 25% contingency fee for any monetary settlement reached outside of court, or one-third of any award resulting from a trial.

Koetzle said it’s unclear how much the town stands to gain, but said any money awarded to the town will be used to upgrade the carbon filtration system at the town’s drinking water plant that can wean out the chemicals. The town provides drinking water to approximately 7,000 residents.

PFAS chemicals are found in everything from non-stick cookware, clothing, plastic containers and certain types of insulation. But the chemicals, which do not break down in the environment, have been found in public drinking water systems throughout the country, prompting health concerns and sparking numerous high-profile lawsuits. PFAS contaminants have been linked to certain types of cancer, weakened immune systems and other adverse health effects.

Locally, Hoosick Falls in Rensselaer County received a $65 million payout from Saint-Gobain, Honeywell International, 3M and DuPont to settle a federal lawsuit that accused the companies of contaminating the village’s drinking water supply. The money was used to provide cash payments and fund long-term medical monitoring for thousands of residents impacted by the contamination first discovered in 2014.

In Glenville, Koetzle said he believes the contamination can be linked to fire-suppression foam that was used at the Stratton Air National Guard base at the Schenectady County airport located in the eastern part of town.

“I don’t want to speculate, but it doesn’t take a sleuth to know who has used PFOAs in town,” he said. “That could be the Air Guard base. They’re the only ones who fight jet fuel fires.”

The contamination level has remained below the actionable levels of 7 parts per trillion for PFOA’s set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The town reported PFOA contaminants of around 2 parts per trillions in its latest water quality report released earlier this year.

In March, the EPA announced new proposed regulations that lower the allowable continent levels to 4 parts per trillion, and the federal government has set aside billions to tackle the contaminants through an infrastructure bill approved by Congress last year.

Koetzle said the town is monitoring the new proposed regulations, but noted there is “concern” the contaminated levels would rise to actionable levels.

“That would make this even more important,” he said.

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