Hoosick Falls residents, worried about PFOA in their water systems and in their blood, according to recent tests, came to the Capitol to demand hearings on the Cuomo Administration's handling of the water crisis. They instead got a meeting with Governor Cuomo's director of State Operations, Jim Malatras, after they assembled outside the governor's door.
After some initial hesitation, Cuomo aides allowed a reporter to be present.
Malatras came in to the meeting,and said he was sorry that Governor Cuomo was busy with end of session issues and could not personally meet with the residents, who numbered around 2 dozen, but said he was willing to listen to their concerns. Malatras said the governor would meet with them at some point in the future.
Malatras tried to relate to their plight, saying he has children himself that he worries about. That caused many of the residents to jump in angrily with complaints about cancers, autism, other illnesses in their families, their worries and concerns and what they believe is lack of answers from the Cuomo Administration.
The residents had particular complaints about what they said was the Department of Health’s mishandling of blood testing, and in not distributing useful information.
Malatras explained, for the first time, that DOH was struggling to process the blood tests and what they mean, because he says not that much is known about PFOA, which until recent was considered an unregulated chemical. He urged more residents to get their blood tested so that more long term studies can be undertaken.
A number of times Malatras tried to turn the focus away from the administration’s handling of the situation, and to the polluter, St Gobain.
Malatras did not address accusations that Cuomo administration officials knew about the potential dangers of PFOA 18 months before they warned residents, but did say that once Cuomo became involved he told Malatras to “do everything humanly possible” for Hoosick residents, and that the governor personally made sure that water filters installed in many homes were up to spec.
Malatras also promised more direct contact between the governor’s office and the residents, saying “we will be the point of contact if you have questions”.
He also said that if the residents want more outside involvement form health experts, such as doctors from Mount Sinai, they will get it.
At the end of the nearly hour long meeting, Hoosick Falls music teacher Rob Allen summed up many residents’ feelings, saying “the next few weeks will be critical”, in whether the governor and his aides can regain the trust of the citizens in the Village.
The residents are still seeking public hearings. That decision is up to Democrats who control the Assembly, and Republicans who rule the Senate. Neither house has set a date for hearings.