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Petersburgh woman talks PFOA problems, potential solutions

May 15, 2019 07:33 PM

A Petersburgh woman testified at a legislative hearing in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

Emily Marpe was there to talk about how PFOAs have impacted her community. She said it needs to be treated as a crisis.

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The contamination in Petersburgh was traced back to the Taconic Plastics facility, but similar cases are being discovered nationwide.

Marpe met with Congressmen Paul Tonko and Antonio Delgado to discuss the issues and potential solutions.

Just last week, Delgado announced legislation that would require PFAs to be listed on the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The "PFAs Right to Know Act" would then require manufacturers to report use of the chemicals to the EPA. That information would be public.

Tonko spoke about how even small concentrations of PFAs can be incredibly dangerous to human health. He said the equivalency of a few drops of PFAs in an Olympic-sized swimming pool would be considered toxic.

PFAs can be found in food packaging, nonstick cookware firefighting foams and water resistant fabrics.

Marpe and others who testified before the Environment & Climate subcommittees are calling for more transparency on packing and advertising to allow consumers a choice between products that incorporate the chemical and those that do not.

"These companies set up shop in rural communities and they fly under the radar," Marpe said. "You can't see it, you can't smell it, you can't taste it. You have no idea that it's there until somebody tells you."

Marpe also thinks companies that use the chemical should have to disclose that information to nearby residents and their employees. She said people in Petersburgh only found out about PFAs in the water there after a Hoosick Falls man personally tested the water to see if it could have caused his father's cancer.

"He was smart enough to think, 'Can Teflon cause cancer?'" Marpe said. "His father worked for the plant in Hoosick Falls for 32 years. He came home, his home was literally 800 feet from the plant. Eight hundred feet. The man showered in it, cooked in it, drank it, I mean, and he's gone."

Wednesday's hearing was the first to examine 13 bills proposing solutions to reduce PFA exposure, expedite cleanups and safely disposal of the chemicals. Tonko is urging swift action, but he also said it would likely take years to establish and enforce protective standards.

You can watch the whole hearing here.

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Emily Burkhard

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