Committee on Oversight is seeking documents related to water contamination
Published 8:31 pm, Wednesday, July 20, 2016
A congressional committee extended the deadline for Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s administration to turn over documents about the Hoosick Falls water contamination crisis the committee wants for its investigation.
The administration said Wednesday that both parties have agreed that the Executive Chamber will release the documents on a rolling basis, with the first batch set to go out next week.
“We will gladly share our experience in New York to clarify the facts and the challenges facing states as they work to address contaminants that are unregulated by the federal government,” Cuomo spokesman James Allen said of the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee‘s request. “As part of those efforts, we are working with the committee and providing assistance as it fulfills its responsibilities. As is usual for requests of this volume, the committee has granted an extension and we will begin providing documents next week on a rolling basis.”
In a letter sent July 6, the committee asked for all documents and communications to or from any state employee — as well as to or from any employees of the governor’s office — related to Hoosick Falls, PFOA and perfluorooctanoic acid.
The committee also requested a similar trove of documents and communications from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
It provided a deadline of Wednesday at 5 p.m. for both the state and EPA. Though the committee has subpoena power, the requests did not carry the force of law.
In letters Wednesday to oversight committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Subcommittee on the Interior Chairwoman Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator Joel Beauvais outlined the agency’s timeline of events and said it has begun searching for the requested documents. Beauvais also pointed the chairs to documents already uploaded to FOIA online.
“The EPA recognizes the importance of the committee’s need to obtain information necessary to perform its oversight functions, and is committed to continuing to work with your staff on how to best accommodate the committee’s interests in these documents,” Beauvais wrote. “We anticipate providing additional responsive documents.”
In seeking the documents, the committee cited a number of reports that indicate that officials from the local level on up were aware for more than a year of PFOA pollution of the Hoosick Falls municipal water supply but did not warn residents to stop drinking the water. Attempts to reach a committee spokesperson were unsuccessful.
“The Committee is seeking information as to why the state and county delayed in acknowledging the health risks of PFOA exposure in Hoosick Falls and continued to provide the public with false and confusing information,” the committee’s letter to the governor stated.
PFOA contamination has not only ravaged the village of Hoosick Falls’ water, but it also has affected private wells in the town of Hoosick and nearby Petersburgh. Factories in that portion have eastern Rensselaer County used that chemical for decades.
Since the House committee made its outreach, the state Assembly and Senate said they will convene hearings on water quality issues. The Senate will hold one of its sessions in Hoosick Falls.