For Immediate Release: May 11, 2017
500 Days of Toxic Tap: $450M Slush Fund Available for New Hoosick Falls Water Source
With Health in the Balance, Time to Launch Statewide “Drinking Water Quality Council”
Albany – More than 500 days have passed since residents of Hoosick Falls learned their water was contaminated with a likely carcinogen and unsafe to drink. Yet Governor Cuomo and legislators failed to fund a new water source in the state’s recent $150+ billion budget. However, a “slush fund” of at least $450 million is now available within the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act from the enacted budget which residents called on the state to draw from in order to connect Hoosick Falls with a safe drinking water source.
Residents also called on the Governor and legislators to take action to help protect communities statewide from contaminated drinking water by announcing their appointments to the new statewide Drinking Water Quality Council, a body created following the crisis in Hoosick Falls which will help the Department of Health (DOH) set water contamination safety standards continually going forward for communities across New York.
The appointments should be highly independent experts who, immediately upon convening the council, will act to provide recommendations on emerging contaminants for the DOH to regulate, residents noted.
Cathy Dawson, an operating nurse, said, “I see firsthand the fear people experience when a loved one gets sick. I share their fears. It’s now been more than 500 days since we were told ‘don’t drink the water!’ Governor Cuomo has been saying for a long time that if the federal government doesn’t act, he will. Here is his opportunity – the state budget created a special slush fund to help communities like ours gain access to clean, safe drinking water. Let’s use it! There is more than enough money available right now to connect our community to a new water source that will alleviate our fears and give our community a sense of normalcy when we turn on the tap.”
Michele Baker said, “At every single step of the way, it is our families, our friends, and our neighbors, who fought back to ensure state government did its job. Our community did the testing that discovered PFOA. Our community forced government to respond. Our community held our own state Senator accountable in 2016 for trying to kill legislation we and all of New York State needed. Here we are once again. Other communities just like ours are in crisis right now. Many just don’t know it yet. Governor Cuomo and state legislators must convene the Drinking Water Quality Council so we can all get to work reining in the unregulated chemicals putting our drinking water in danger.”
Silvia Potter said, “Governor Cuomo says, ‘New York is once again leading the nation with this bold investment to strengthen the infrastructure of our water systems.’ We need him to not forget those of us who live just 40 miles from the Capitol. I want to have trust in our government again. Governor Cuomo can right the wrongs we’ve endured by drawing from the $450 million available to give us clean water!”
Jennifer Plouffe said, “My parents helped find my dream home. A place I closed on the day the crisis in my new community was announced. What’s so upsetting is that I know others are making life decisions like this every day, in communities in every corner of this state. They may very well be in the same situation I am in. We are fighting for our community, but we’re also fighting for every community. We need our new water source, and we need the water council to get to work. The longer the state waits, the longer people are in danger. Water is life.”
Michelle O’Leary, a mother of two, said, “Days before the budget was completed, I stood in the Capitol with my daughter and neighbors ‘serving’ legislators ‘crisis water.’ This is our life now, educating New York’s public officials about the basic obligations state government should fulfill like drinking water that doesn’t make us sick. Governor Cuomo has a great opportunity. While the budget did not designate a nickel for our clean water source, the money is available to do it. Let’s make it happen, Governor!”
Funding for New Water Source
In the Enacted Budget, $2.5 billion was allocated for clean water programs. However, Governor Cuomo and state legislators failed to specifically designate any of those funds for connecting the village of Hoosick Falls with an alternate water source that is not contaminated. Nonetheless, two separate slush funds within the $2.5 billion leave a total of $450 million for the Governor to allocate as needed, such as a new water source for Hoosick Falls. It has been quoted that the cost of switching to a new water source could be estimated at $25 million.
Drinking Water Quality Council Appointees
New York’s Drinking Water Quality Council was established in the Enacted Budget and, once formally convened, will identify emerging contaminants that pose a threat to drinking water. The council is currently awaiting appointees which are to be named by the Governor, Assembly, and Senate, as well as designated seats for DOH and DEC.
Liz Moran, water & natural resources associate for Environmental Advocates of New York said, “The state’s record of investment on clean water issues is, in many ways, a testament to the residents of Hoosick Falls. They have never given up fighting for their community, and have bravely fought to establish new protections for every community across the state. We want to see the Governor and legislators now take the next step, ensure funding is directed where it is most needed, and to take the long-view on protecting our drinking water in New York by chipping away at the more than 80,000 unregulated chemicals on the market today.”