What's in the water in Hoosick Falls?
My name is Mikayla Baker, I'm 15 years old and, as my mom says, "born and raised on PFOA." I live in the small town of Hoosick Falls, which is Ground Zero for water contamination in New York state. We didn't know our water was unsafe to drink until the EPA warned us, and now our village has gone 500 days without a clean water source. Water is life; but our water is contaminated with perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical that can cause cancer.
I've gone to more public meetings in my short life than most adults ever will. While most kids my age watch tons of videos online, I watch how our government works and, sadly, when it fails. I hear elected officials constantly tell the people of Hoosick Falls how bad they feel for us, and promise to fix the problem – but they haven't. They're playing games with our lives and making fake promises just to get elected again, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo leading the way.
Not one dollar was set aside in the New York state budget for a clean drinking water source in Hoosick Falls. Gov. Cuomo promised us a Drinking Water Council so that children never have to drink contaminated water again. What are you waiting for, governor? You're a dad and you said you'd be frightened if your kids drank this water. Guess what? I am scared of the water, and so is my grandma and mom who live in Hoosick Falls. Why isn't anyone helping us? We deserve answers.
After what I have seen these past few years, I am also asking my friends and family, and indeed all New Yorkers to support a call for an Environmental Bill of Rights. Each New Yorker should have a right to clean air and water, but we don’t under the state Constitution. That should change.
Last year I found out our water was making people sick and harming our pets. Kids at school tell me about people who have died. We don't drink the water in the house and we brush our teeth with bottled water because we are so afraid. Again, we live on bottled water. Do you know how hard that is? Water isn't something a kid should worry about – but this is life for us in Hoosick Falls.
Our mothers think this is their fault. I've seen my mom and her friends cry because they blame themselves for giving us poisoned water. They shouldn't cry, they did nothing wrong and they didn't know the water had PFOA in it. My mom says we've become "accidental activists." We didn't ask for poisoned water, but now we fight to help people who can't speak up for themselves. All of us had our blood tested and we have high levels of PFOA in our bodies. Do you know how that makes us feel? What will happen to us? One of my friends really likes our school, but sometimes she wants to live somewhere else because she's afraid her family will get sick. One boy I know is scared he will get cancer.
When I graduate high school I want to be like CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. He asks politicians tough questions and makes them answer. I have plenty of questions for New York state. Why did my government fail me? They didn't tell us to not drink the water and we learned about it because one man discovered PFOA in Hoosick Falls. This makes me so angry. If I lied to my mom, I’d be grounded. Gov. Cuomo is in charge and should be in Hoosick Falls every day until the water is fixed. Instead, he’s all over New York talking about how great this state is and trying to run for president. Guess what? My friends and I would never vote for you as president. You haven't kept your promise to us for a new water source. If you want to lead, then show the rest of New York how to solve our water crisis, keep kids safe and show the country why you deserve to be president. Please stop ignoring us, people are getting sick and some are dying.
Writing this has not been easy, but when I see my mom and her friends spending everyday advocating for clean water, it's the least I could do. People think we're just kids, but we see and hear everything that happens. Hoosick Falls needs a new clean water source, New Yorkers need a right to clean water, and a group of good people on a water council to protect it. Gov. Cuomo and state legislators: please clean up our water and clean up your act!
Mikayla Baker is a student in the Hoosick Falls Central School District.