Hoosick Falls class-action suit goes to court Friday

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HOOSICK FALLS, NY — A group of area residents affected by PFOA contamination will have their day in court on Friday when a handful of cases alleging diminished property values go before a federal judge.

The complaints, filed in U.S. District Court in Albany, seek class action status for residents or property owners affected by the potentially harmful chemical in their water.

Plaintiffs claim a loss of value of property values due to contamination and allege negligence against two companies that recently signed consent orders with the state holding them responsible for cleaning up contamination, according to court documents. Plaintiffs seek compensation for damages and an injunction to make the companies pay for long-term medical studies.

The suits represent four cases that were found to be related and consolidated by the court. Plaintiffs have filed motions with the court to consolidate the related cases and appoint Weitz & Luxenberg, an Albany-based law firm that specializes in class-action and personal injury litigation, as interim counsel.

Listed as plaintiffs are Michele Baker, Angela Corbett and Daniel Schuttig; Lisa Tifft and Marilyn Pechham; Michael Hickey; and Bryan N. Schrom and Kary Schrom. All are residents of the village of Hoosick Falls.

Listed as defendants are Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. and Honeywell International Inc. (formerly known as Allied-Signal Inc.) Both companies signed consent orders last week holding them responsible for contamination from the chemical once used to make the nonstick coating Teflon.

According to a complaint filed in February by Weitz and Luxenberg on behalf of Baker, Corbett and Schuttig, the three residents' homes have lost value since news of PFOA contamination broke. Baker, whose home is served by a private well, went to refinance in January, but learned a local bank wasn't financing in the area, according to the complaint.

In an interview on Friday, Baker said testing ultimately found her water supply contained PFOA. She's since gone to multiple banks and gotten multiple appraisals. Her home's value has dropped about $14,000 — from $120,000 in January to $106,000. She said the decrease was based on her home having a point of entry treatment (POET) water filtration system in her basement.

Weitz & Luxenberg previously organized an event at Bennington College featuring the environmental and consumer advocate Erin Brokovitch, who serves as a consultant to the firm.

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, has been linked to kidney and testicular cancers, as well as high blood pressure and cholesterol and thyroid problems.

According to the complaints, plaintiffs are alleging negligence against both companies for manufacturing processes that led PFOA to be released into the environment.

The complaints allege manufacturing processes at sites like the 14 McCaffrey Street plant resulted in PFOA to be discharged into the soil and the aquifer. That property is located near three wells serving the village municipal water system, which had a nodrink order on it for months. The factory was owned by Dodge Industries, Oak Industries, Allied-Signal and Furon before current owner Saint-Gobain acquired the factory around 1999. The companies used a PFOA solution in manufacturing stain resistant fabric, film, tapes and foams. The suit alleges that employees washed out trays and ovens used to apply and "bake" PFOA. Water used to wash equipment was released into drains, leading the chemical to be discharged into the soil and the aquifer.

Plaintiffs are seeking compensation for themselves and other affected Hoosick-area residents. They also seek an injunction to demand both parties pay to remediate their properties and compensate residents for medical and other expenses. The plaintiffs also seek the companies to fund a long-term biomonitoring study on health effects.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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