The Hoosick Falls Central School District, in partnership with Bennington College, has organized the inaugural Taconic Mountain Student Water Conference. This conference is an opportunity for high school students to learn about the water resources in our region, the opportunities those resources provide, and the problems associated with those water resources.
For complete information please check the Bennington College CAPA website HERE.
For the list of speakers & roundtable discussions open to the public on Saturday CLICK HERE (includes times for each)
The theme of this inaugural water conference is Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) contamination. Advanced science students and their teachers from around the region will creatively and critically engage the subject of PFOA and its impact on our region.
The conference is scheduled for May 19th and 20th, 2017 and will be hosted by Bennington College. The first day of the conference is exclusively for high school students, but the public is invited to attend for the speakers on Saturday afternoon including keynote speaker Rob Bilott. Mr. Bilott is a partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister, in Cincinnati and is known for filing a class-action lawsuit against chemical company DuPont. Bilott has worked hard to prove that not only did DuPont dump a toxic chemical, PFOA (also known as C8) in West Virginia, but scientists at the company were aware of the potential harm PFOA could cause humans who were exposed to it. Bilott is still working with litigation involving claims of thousands of people who have been exposed to PFOA. His work on that case was profiled in a January 2016 New York Times Magazine article entitled “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare”.
Other notable participants during the public presentations on Saturday include former Vermont DEC Commissioner Alyssa Schuren, and former EPA Region Two Administrator Judith Enck.
This conference aligns with the mission of the Center for Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) at Bennington College, which encourages students to engage more directly with local and national environmental issues. Conference co-convener Dr.
David Bond, of Bennington College said, “This conference showcases the exemplary work that took shape after PFOA was discovered in our region.”
Students will participate a variety of educational experiences through project based learning, hands-on water sampling, collaboration, and coming away with a better definition of what it means to be a good environmental citizen.
Conference co-convener and Superintendent of Hoosick Falls Central School District Kenneth Facin said, “This is a great opportunity for students to learn about science and research as it pertains to water. This conference is a positive experience, born out of the water crisis in the Hoosick community.”
Bond added, “Bringing together the scientists, policymakers, and journalists who helped shine light on the problems of PFOA and advance a better way forward, this conference will introduce the next generation of citizens to difficult environmental problems and equip them to begin doing something about it.”
Students have been invited from 10 local high schools in Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York. Additionally, Academia Avance High School students will be traveling from Los Angeles, California to participate in this conference.
Ricardo Mireles, Executive Director of Academia Avance said, “It is an honor to be invited by Hoosick Falls Central School to participate in the water conference at Bennington College.” Mireles will be traveling a great distance with his students to attend this conference, but for them this is another stop in a journey that started a year ago. Mireles said, “Our intention is to bring and share what we learned last year in Flint, Michigan and Parkersburg, West Virginia, two other communities impacted by water contamination. This information will help guide us as we learn about what happened in Hoosick.”
Facin said, “Our hope is to inspire students to become more engaged with research and inspire them to go on and study environmental science, law, and policy, so they can contribute to a greater society.” Mireles added, “We feel that it’s important for our youth, who are future leaders, to have a dialogue on important issues like water quality.”
In advocacy, policy, and scholarship today, the environment has become a potent site of meaning and action. Within CAPA, the initiative on the Environment and Public Action encourages students to engage more directly with local and national environmental issues, from installing LED lights in North Bennington to measuring (and lowering) the carbon footprint of the college, to work-shopping radical solutions to water crises from California to the Middle East to our own region. This initiative also reflects more pointedly on the relationship between the environment and public action; it seeks to foster critical and comparative scholarship on the historical formation of the environment (which remains a surprisingly recent domain of science, politics, and ethics). CAPA’s investments in public action are uniquely poised to allow students to mobilize the strengths of a Bennington education toward a more nuanced understanding of the environment, as well as toward a more effective confrontation with and equitable solution to environmental problems today.
Robert A. Bilott is a partner in Taft’s Environmental, Litigation, and Product Liability and Personal Injury groups where he represents a diverse range of clients on a wide variety of matters involving federal, state and local environmental laws and related litigation. For more than 26 years, Rob has handled environmental issues of regulatory compliance, permitting and corporate/real estate transactions, as well as aspects of litigation arising from such issues, from administrative hearings to multi-party, complex multi-district litigation, mass torts and class actions. Such matters have involved hazardous, solid, medical and infectious wastes, emerging and unregulated chemicals, perfluorochemicals (PFOA/PFOS), asbestos, PCBs, air and water pollution and permitting (including NPDES and Title V permitting), medical monitoring, brownfield redevelopment, landfill regulation and permitting, wastewater treatment, and chemical risk assessment, regulation and testing, including TSCA compliance issues. More info about Robert is available here: http://www.taftlaw.com/attorneys/5-robert-a-bilott