A lawsuit sparked by the water contamination crisis in Hoosick Falls, New York, a small town of 3,500 near the Vermont border, is headed to court. Michael Hickey, the man who helped uncover the contamination, has filed a lawsuit against the companies involved. The class-action lawsuit was filed against Saint-Gobain Corporation and Honeywell International, alleging negligence and causing personal injury to the residents of the town.
State officials ruled the two businesses to be the responsible parties in the Hoosick Falls’ water contamination crisis. Attorney Stephen Schwarz is representing Hickey and Hickey’s infant son in the suit. The lawsuit calls for the companies to set up and maintain a medical monitoring program for anyone who consumed PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, in the water.
Michael Hickey and his father, John Hickey, both lived in Hoosick Falls. John worked at Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, where he handled PFOA, also known as C8, as part of his job. The chemical was widely used to make Teflon coatings. He died of kidney cancer in 2013 at the age of 70.
After researching the condition, Michael Hickey found a scientific report linking PFOA to kidney cancer. His father’s exposure to the chemical led Michael to personally pay to test the town’s tap and well water after John’s death. Those tests revealed levels of PFOA near the Saint-Gobain plant 45 times higher than the levels allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
It took a year and a half after Hickey’s initial tests for officials of the town to acknowledge the severity of the issue and recommend that residents drink bottled water instead. In an interview published in February, Hickey said, “I think people were drinking this water for an additional 14 months when they really didn’t need to be.”
Saint-Gobain owns plants in three states where elevated levels of the chemical were found. In addition to being found in the water supply for Hoosick Falls, where the company has two plants, the chemical has also been found in wells near a former plant in North Bennington, Vermont and in wells within a mile radius of its facility in Merrimack, New Hampshire. As a precaution, New Hampshire is providing the 400 properties in the area with drinking water while testing is ongoing.