Deadlines set for Hoosick Falls class-action settlement
HOOSICK FALLS – Two public briefings are slated for September 8th and 9th on a proposed $ 65 million settlement in a class action lawsuit involving three companies responsible for polluting public and private water supplies in and to be blamed for the village of Hoosick Falls.
The meetings will take place in an open-air pavilion on the Reynolds / Gilchrest Skating Rink on Barton Avenue in Hoosick Falls, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit.
An information website has also been created to provide details on the proposed settlement: http://www.hoosickfallspfoasetlement.com.
Residents affected by the pollution have until December 9th to notify the court if they wish to be excluded from the settlement. This option would allow someone to participate in other lawsuits against the polluting companies or other parties. Objections to the settlement must also be submitted by December 9th.
Those wishing to receive a payment and wish to participate in the settlement must submit an application form by January 24th. Online application forms will be available on September 7th.
In December 2015, a Times Union story revealed that state and local officials decided not to warn residents not to drink the water, despite the health risks associated with the toxic manufacturing chemical. A period of unrest in the village ensued and details of the steps officials had taken to downplay the health risks were revealed.
In July, U.S. District Chief Justice Lawrence E. Kahn issued preliminary approval to the proposed settlement, which would secure cash payments and long-term medical surveillance for thousands of property owners and residents, including those found to be elevated a toxic manufacturing substance in their bloodstream.
A final settlement hearing is scheduled for February 2 in the US District Court in Albany.
The preliminary settlement was reached in a proposed class action lawsuit filed in 2016 in the U.S. District Court in Albany. In the lawsuit, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International – and later 3M and DuPont Co. – were each involved in decades of polluting the community’s water supply, which is contaminated with perfluorinated chemicals at various factories in the United States were used village.
For many current and former residents, the settlement is designed to compensate for the potential health effects of their exposure to the chemicals, as well as the potential depreciation of the property, and provide an early detection system for related health problems that may be suffered in the years to come.
The focus of the case was a manufacturing facility that Saint-Gobain has operated on McCaffrey Street in Hoosick Falls since the 1990s. The plant is adjacent to the village’s water treatment plant, which pumps water contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) from underground wells. Honeywell’s predecessor, Allied Signal, operated the facility from 1986 to 1996, one of five companies to have operated the facility since 1956.
Payments under the proposed settlement could be split among approximately 1,800 qualified property owners, and the amounts each would receive will depend on several factors, including the number of certified class members. A person may also be eligible for medical surveillance if the level of PFOA detected in their blood was greater than 1.86 parts per billion. Others could also be compensated based on the depreciation of their property, as measured by the value of their home in 2015 – before the stigma of pollution arguably hurt the local property market.
Another portion of the settlement – categorized as a “fault settlement class” – sets aside $ 7.7 million that would be used to compensate those who had a private well contaminated with PFOA if the pollution occurred on or after December 16 In 2015, part of the comparison would apply to individuals and could include more than one person per household, including tenants. That payout could be around $ 10,000 per person.
The settlement would not prevent anyone from filing a separate lawsuit against the companies if, for example, they were to develop a serious illness in the future that could allegedly be linked to water pollution.
The settlement would also allocate nearly $ 23 million to fund 10 years of medical surveillance to have qualified residents of the village – and the town of Hoosick – screened for multiple health conditions related to PFOA exposure, including kidney and testicular cancer, colitis colitis, thyroid disease, preeclampsia / pregnancy-induced hypertension, and medically diagnosed high cholesterol. To qualify for medical surveillance, someone would have had to drink water from a contaminated source – the village’s communal system or a private well – for at least six months between 1996 and 2016.
The proposal includes $ 1.04 million in litigation costs incurred and $ 12.4 million in legal fees – about 19 percent of the total – “for their efforts to settle,” it says.
The 10 adult plaintiffs in the main trial – all current and former residents of either Hoosick Falls Village or Hoosick City – would also split an additional $ 250,000 under the proposal. DuPont and 3M are targeted in legal proceedings for their role in discovering, processing or distributing the toxic substances used to make non-stick and heat-resistant products – from skiwear to cabling for jet planes.
The Albany settlement came after the companies lost a number of court rulings over the past four years, including their arguments for dismissing the case and excluding long-term medical surveillance. DuPont disagreed with the settlement and the Albany trial is pending trial.