The Hoosick Falls Village Board felt the outrage of residents when it voted Thursday night to postpone a special meeting on a controversial settlement with two companies blamed for polluting village water.
Mayor David Borge opened the meeting to announce that a last-minute family emergency had come up for one of the board members and that, in hopes of having the full board present, the meeting would have to be postponed until Monday.
The abrupt cancellation prompted immediate outcry and shouts from the nearly 100 residents who had gathered at the Armory to voice their concerns over the settlement.
"I think it's a cowardly move," said Desiray Rice, a resident who showed up Thursday. "I understand that they want the whole board here for voting. That's fine. But we all came out here to express our opinions, our fears, our doubts about this deal and they need to listen."
The deal being considered is a $1.04 million settlement offer from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International, the two companies blamed for contaminating the village water supply with PFOA.
The agreement would cover the costs of village expenses for engineering, water sampling, and legal and public relations advice since the contamination was first discovered in 2014. But it would also limit the village's ability to bring future claims against the companies — a provision that prompted vehement opposition from community members and environmental advocates, including Judith Enck, a former administrator for the Piabet Environmental Protection Agency.
Village officials say the agreement would only limit their ability to sue over contamination of three existing wells that have already been fitted with filtration systems.
The agreement was revised, they say, to retain village rights to pursue claims associated with new wells, alternative sources of water, extensions or additions to the current municipal water supply system, contaminants other than PFOA, and contamination beyond the water supply, like the village landfill.
"I think the board just wants to get this done and over with," Rice said.
The overwhelming sentiment from residents who showed up for Thursday's meeting, as well as a meeting last month on an earlier draft of the settlement, was for the board to slow down negotiations with the company. Many said they felt the village was being rushed into a settlement before it knows the true extent of the contamination.
"I feel badly for the board member and whatever was happening with their family," said resident Jennifer Plouffe, who said she learned of the water contamination the day she bought her house. "But they had enough for a quorum. They should have at least taken public comment. People scheduled this in their day. This just adds to the really deep current of distrust here in the community."
Monday's meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Armory.
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