The following letter was published in the Niagara Gazette on September 29, 2018.
An Open Letter From the Residents of Hoosick Falls
To the residents of Amherst, Albion, Buffalo and Niagara Falls:
We, residents of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., are writing to you because our story could end up being your story, and no one deserves that.
Almost three years ago, we discovered that our drinking water was poisoned. The biggest offender is a company called Saint-Gobain, which had been releasing an unregulated chemical that can cause cancer, known as PFOA, into our water supply. One day, we were told that the water we had been drinking all our lives, the water our kids grew up drinking, could be deadly.
You may have heard of Saint-Gobain — they operate a facility in your town too.
Saint-Gobain is an enormous multinational corporation. In 2016, the same year our water crisis gained serious media attention, they made a net profit of $1.4 billion. Let that sink in – Saint-Gobain was profiting while we were getting sick. They made billions over the years while polluting our drinking water.
Because of Saint-Gobain, we live constantly with the fear that our friends and family will develop cancer from the chemicals they put in our water. Because of Saint-Gobain, our property values have plummeted. Because of Saint-Gobain, our town carries a stigma. And every day, we learn more about the fallout from the pollution – a recently released community health survey revealed that incidents of diseases linked to PFOA exposure, like testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and thyroid disease, are far more prevalent in our community than previously reported. Many of us have been diagnosed with these very same diseases.
Saint-Gobain turned our lives upside down, and we’re not the same — many of us don’t feel safe drinking our tap water anymore. PFOA is inside our bodies, and it’s leaving permanent damage. But we wanted to tell you our story so that no other community has to suffer what we did.
We know that Saint-Gobain’s use of unregulated chemicals wasn’t just limited to Hoosick Falls. The company’s facility in Bennington, V.T. emitted PFOA into that community’s soil, air, and water as well. Do you know what chemicals Saint-Gobain is using at your facility? Do you know if those chemicals are entering your soil, air or water?
Saint-Gobain has the money to pay up and make our community whole again. They could easily pay for a new, clean water source. They could easily pay for our health to be monitored. This company calls our communities their home, but after trashing our home, it’s clear they aren’t a good neighbor when they refuse to set things right.
And if Governor Cuomo ever has to come to your community, promising to hold the polluter accountable, don’t get your hopes up. Hoosick Falls is still waiting for a new, clean water source that he promised us back in February 2016. Clearly Governor Cuomo isn’t lying awake at night wondering if his water will give him cancer.
No New Yorker should have to worry that the water coming out of their tap is unsafe to drink. So ask Saint-Gobain some hard questions. You owe it to your kids.
Michelle O’Leary, Silvia Potter, Cathy Dawson, Michele Baker, Connie Plouffe, Jennifer Plouffe
NY Water Project