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Seeking a right to safe environment

HOOSICK FALLS, NY — Two young women from Hoosick Falls have teamed up with environmental organizations and are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to pass a constitutional amendment declaring that state residents have a right to clean water, clean air and a safe environment.

The Hoosick Falls residents are Ashlynn Sagendorf, 10, and Mikayla Baker, 14. The water supply in Hoosick falls is contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a toxic chemical used to make teflon.

Many of the residents in Hoosick Falls have elevated levels of PFOA in their blood, and the state is performing studies to see if there are elevated cases of cancer in the village.

The groups Environmental Advocates of New York and Effective NY have released two 30-second videos (tinyurl.com/h6m59jp and tinyurl.com/jdjcybs) featuring the girls talking about the plight of their village and promoting a constitutional amendment.

“I think one of the highest priorities of New York State should be to have a healthy environment,” said Baker. “It’s ridiculous that we should even have to ask for the right of clean water and clean air.”

Travis Proulx, communications director for Environmental Advocates, said the campaign was inspired by the children of Hoosick Falls. “They came to us and said, ‘Hey, we really want to help. We want to help educate the public on what’s going on, and we want to make a difference so this doesn’t happen to other people’,” Proulx said.

He said there has been interest from politicians on both sides of the aisle in Albany, and he expects legislators to introduce an environmental constitutional amendment in the 2017 session.

Typically, a constitutional amendment must be approved by two consecutive sessions of the state legislature, then approved by voters.

But in November 2017, state voters will be able to go to the polls and vote about whether the state should hold a constitutional convention, and if the majority votes “yes,” an environmental amendment could be considered along with other amendments by the convention delegates.

In the meantime, the Village of Hoosick Falls has reached a draft settlement with the two companies believed to be responsible for the contamination, Saint-Gobain and Honeywell. However, a separate lawsuit was filed against the companies on December 22, by a partnership that owns about 21 acres of land with a grocery store located on it; the owners say the land may now be worthless because it is contaminated with PFOA.

 

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