Class Action Filed Over PFOA Contamination in New York

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By Gerald B. Silverman

Feb. 24 — Residents of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., filed a class action lawsuit Feb. 24 in federal court against Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. and Honeywell International Inc., seeking damages for contamination of their water supply with perfluorooctanoic acid.

The lawsuit alleges that the two companies are responsible for contaminating the municipal drinking water supply and private wells in the village located 35 miles northeast of Albany.

The lawsuit opens a new front for the companies, which are already facing potential liability under the state Superfund law and have been meeting with state officials to discuss remedial work. Saint-Gobain also has provided bottled water and funded a water filtration system.

Saint-Gobain operates a manufacturing plant in Hoosick Falls, as did Honeywell's predecessor, Allied-Signal Inc.. Both companies were named by New York as potentially responsible parties for remediation of a number of sites under the state Superfund law.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York by the New York City firm Weitz & Luxenberg, alleges claims of negligence, public nuisance, trespass and strict liability for abnormally dangerous activity.

Punitive Damages

The four plaintiffs are seeking punitive damages and monetary damages in connection with the contamination of their properties with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The suit said the exact size of the class would be ascertained in discovery, but the two subclasses include those who receive water from the municipal water supply and those who receive it from private wells.

The suit also seeks additional testing, installation of permanent water filtration systems and remedial steps to clean up the contamination.

“While Saint-Gobain has acted quickly and openly since learning of the presence of PFOA in the drinking water supply in the Village of Hoosick Falls, we respect the right of individuals to pursue their claims in a court of law,” Dina Silver Pokedoff, a spokeswoman for the company, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail.

“Saint-Gobain has, and will continue to work with the local, state and federal agencies to investigate the source of the PFOA in the drinking water,” she said. “Saint-Gobain, as a member of this community and the largest employer, remains committed to funding clean drinking water—from providing bottled water for the community and most recently, through funding the installation of a temporary water filtration system, which should be fully online in the coming days.”

The company has also agreed to fund a long-term filtration system in the village, she said.

Honeywell Reviewing

Victoria Streitfeld, a spokeswoman for Honeywell, said the company has also offered assistance for a program for private wells “that complements the testing being offered by public agencies and the work done by Saint-Gobain.”

“Honeywell is doing a review to understand the historic operations by our predecessor, Allied Signal Laminated Systems Inc., which operated in Hoosick Falls between 1986 and 1996,” Streitfeld told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail. “After selling the business in 1996, Allied Signal Laminated Systems conducted several site investigations and received ‘no further action’ letters from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.”

“Regulations did not require testing for PFOA at the time,” she said. “Although we do not have complete information, it appears that operations at several of these facilities used polytetrafluoroethylene that may have contained PFOA as an additive or ingredient in the manufacture of fabric, films and tapes.”

PFOA Used in Making Cookware

PFOA is a chemical used in the manufacture of non-stick cookware and other consumer products that resist heat and repel oil, grease and water. It was detected in the Hoosick water supply in 2014 at levels that exceed Environmental Protection Agency standards, and the state Department of Health has determined that Hoosick residents should not use the water for drinking or cooking.

The lawsuit said the companies “negligently, recklessly, and/or intentionally failed to properly control, apply, use and/or dispose of PFOA Solution and/or other waste containing PFOA, such that defendants proximately caused contaminants to enter, invade, intrude upon and injure the right of plaintiffs and the private water subclass to possess their property.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Gerald B. Silverman in Albany, N.Y., at gsilverman@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The class action lawsuit is available at http://src.bna.com/cQR.