It’s one thing to get swindled.
It’s another thing to be an active participant in your own swindling.
So members of the Hoosick Village Board should think twice before they vote tonight to approve a new agreement with polluters of the village water supply and surrounding private wells.
Under the draft settlement with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International over the discharge of the chemical PFOA into the groundwater that was discovered in 2014, the companies essentially would agree to repay the village $850,000 for present and future expenses relating to its dealings with the companies.
A little less than half the settlement amount, about $410,000, has already been spent on lawyers’ fees and public relations advice. So after these expenses are taken out, the village will net only about $440,000 under the deal.
More importantly for residents and the longterm financial and environmental health of the community, the village would agree not to take future legal action seeking compensation from the companies for the damage they’ve caused.
PFOA, used in making non-stick coatings for cooking materials, is a known carcinogen and toxin that can cause health issues ranging from high blood pressure to prenatal mortality.
Dozens of people already have tested positive for PFOA contamination. What happens if people come forward with presently undiagnosed medical conditions or issues with their homes and decide to sue the village for damages? Would the village be able to recoup those damages from the company under such a deal?
What happens if it turns out in the future that the pollution was more extensive or has spread and that more wells have been polluted? Or what happens if the village finds out that it has to do more work to upgrade and repair its equipment due to the contamination? Or that the village requires more legal advice? Or that property values plunge because of the contamination?
It’s possible more information about the effects of PFOA could be found that would justify more compensation.Why would the village agree to permanently give up its right to seek damages from the companies for issues related to the current situation that might not become known until five years or 20 years into the future?
These are terms only a sucker would accept — if forced to accept them. It’s even worse that the village had a role in negotiating this deal and appears willing to sell out its residents for cash. How much are 30 pieces of silver worth in today’s dollars, anyway? Certainly not the millions of dollars the village might be losing by giving up its legal rights.
Instead of signing this agreement tonight, village officials should take more time to evaluate the potential consequences of the deal — particularly the consequences of forfeiting their legal rights when so much more might still be unknown about the true impact of the contamination.
Once the deal is signed, the village will be out of options for seeking relief for all the harm that’s been done.