The Toxic Water Crisis That 2020 Democrats Are Still Figuring Out How To Talk About


So-called “forever chemicals” are tainting roughly 19 million Americans’ drinking water in 43 states. How are so few presidential candidates talking about this?

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. ― It’s been five years since Michael Hickey, sleepless and grieving his father’s untimely death, Googled “Teflon” and “cancer” and came to the terrifying realization that his town’s water was likely poisoned. Back then, perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, was little more than a chemistry textbook tongue twister. It was also the key, nonstick ingredient in the waterproof fabrics made by the factory almost next door to the Hickeys’ home.

The entire family worked at various points in the plant, owned first by Honeywell International then Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics. Hickey recalled scrubbing the ventilation towers as a young man in little more than light protective gear. Hickey’s father was driving a school bus for the town the day he came home and urinated blood, offering the first visible sign of the kidney cancer that would kill him not long after. His death haunted his son. Hickey’s father never drank or smoked; he was relatively fit. How could he get cancer?

While he strongly suspected their water was tainted, Hickey couldn’t even convince local or state officials to test the water supply for the chemical and ended up doing it himself. The results were definitive: The tiny upstate New York mill town’s groundwater contained chemical levels far exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory…

Alexander C. Kaufman and Lena Jackson

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