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Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli,  

Construction crews at Moses Ludington in Ticonderoga finish cleaning and painting on Tuesday in preparation for Thursday's emergency department grand opening and community tours. 

Teen helps Holocaust survivor, 94, keep her story alive

GLENS FALLS — Clara Rudnick lived in the cellar of a house for seven months with three others. It had a dirt floor and one light. She could only eat and drink food at night in order to stay hidden. She was 17 years old.

“One morning we heard a lot of noise upstairs. I peeked through the hatch door. I saw Nazis and they saw me. When I ducked down, the Nazis started shooting at us. A bullet grazed my stomach, but killed Mr. Buerstein (a family friend) instantly.”

Rudnick had finally been captured by Nazis soldiers after months on the run. She ended up in a death camp in Stutthof, Poland — the first concentration camp ever built by the Nazis outside of Germany. Out of the 110,000 people brought there, 85,000 died.

“I felt doomed.”

These are the words written by Rudnick, 94, a Holocaust survivor who lives in Queensbury.

Rudnick shared her gripping story through Nicki Fedele, a senior from Queensbury High School, Wednesday night to a room of over 100 people at the Salvation Army building on Broad Street. The evening was for the “Liberation from Nazis” American Legion speaker series on World War II.

The program featured students from Glens Falls High School and Queensbury High School who told the stories of what the instant loss of freedom was like.

Audience members cried during the 45-minute presentation.

Fedele told how Rudnick’s family had been mowed down with machine guns and burned alive. She had to dig graves with her fingers to bury bodies and was being starved.

But that’s not the part of the story Rudnick focuses on.

“God allowed me to survive four years of the Nazis. … I tell this story so you can teach everyone that this terrible part of history must be remembered, and it really did happen” is the message she’s been sharing for years in the United States and Israel.

It’s the same message other immigrants who were liberated from the Nazis at the end of World War II told, as well as two U.S. Army soldiers of the 1944 invasion of Normandy, both teenagers at that time. One jumped with the 82nd Airborne Division and the other went ashore at Omaha Beach.

That latter was Henry Gurney’s story, who was a private at Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy. Today, he lives in Whitehall.

Walton Stanton, a senior at Glens Falls High School, told his story.

“My message to students is that freedom is not free,” Stanton read from Gurney’s story.

“D-Day was the largest invasion in history. It had to be. We could not afford to lose.”

“Our troops ran like hell in the barrage of artillery, machine gun fire and mine explosions. … You could see an arm here, a leg or head there and bodies floating in the bloody water along the beach.”

Stanton said he felt honored to read Gurney’s story.

“To tell and take the experiences and lessons of what he went through ... it’s unbelievable. He was about my age when that happened,” Stanton said.

Wednesday night was the first time the students and survivors met.

Other liberators thanked God for the U.S. Army and the freedom that was returned to them and their home countries.

“You live in the best country in the world and you are lucky to live here,” Rudnick wrote.

“I would have died a horrible death like the 6 million others if it had not been for the U.S. armed forces. … God bless them, God bless all of you and God bless America.”

PFOA found in Kingsbury resident's well

KINGSBURY — A chemical that could cause cancer has been found near the Warren-Washington Airport Industrial Park, and state workers are now testing wells to make sure residents are safe.

So far, they have found one contaminated residential well on Dean Road, they said.

The well water was contaminated with PFOA, a chemical that was used to make Teflon. Officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation installed a filter and the water now tests as safe.

The DEC will use the results of the tests to try to determine the source of the PFOA.

The tests and the filter are free, but residents can refuse.

And many of them are saying no to the DEC. Some said they feared it would be expensive or that they would be required to move away.

“I’m never going to leave this place,” said resident Vince Shay, who is willing to take his chances with PFOA.

“Our lives are so poisoned by chemicals anyway, what’s the difference?” he said.

Another resident said he was sure his water wasn’t contaminated.

“I told them no, no testing here. I feel pretty healthy,” said Jeff Flynn. “There probably isn’t any concern.”

He also doesn’t trust the state.

“I don’t think they’re worried about me,” he said. “Are you really just trying to build a case against this company? I don’t believe you are that concerned about my personal well-being.”

A nearby company that used PFOA until 2008 is considered a potential source, DEC said.

That manufacturer is W.F. Lake Corp. The owners deny that any PFOA ever left their facility.

“There was no disposal. There hasn’t been any disposal,” said W.F. Lake co-owner and secretary/treasurer John Hodgkins.

PFOA is burned off during the process of making Teflon, but some plants that use PFOA have inadvertently contaminated the water supply.

Hodgkins voluntarily reported to the state that the company used PFOA for a few years before switching to a safer chemical developed to avoid PFOA.

After that report, last year, he explained to The Post-Star that Kingsbury was not in danger.

“We have zero process water. We have nothing leaving the building as far as any of the process material,” he said. “So there’s nothing that goes out into any form of groundwater. There’s no floor drains, no leach fields, no nothing.”

PFOA is the same chemical that contaminated the water supply of the village of Hoosick Falls. In that case, St. Gobain Performance Plastics is located close to the village’s wells. That plant used PFOA for decades.

DEC tested wells near W.F. Lake because the company reported using PFOA. The agency also tested wells near the airport, which uses PFOA in its firefighting foam.

The wells near the airport were not contaminated, DEC officials said.

The PFOA they have found in Kingsbury leads them to suspect the source is W.F. Lake, so they plan to test the soil and groundwater around the facility. If they don’t find evidence of contamination, they will look elsewhere for the source.

In the meantime, they’re working hard to persuade residents to let them test and clean their water. Often residents need repeat visits and education before they agree, DEC officials said.

So far, of about 62 properties, more than 20 owners have agreed to testing, the DEC said.

Student voices changing the gun debate

The anguished voices of the Parkland, Florida school shooting survivors have risen above potent and previously unbending National Rifle Association chatter and already sparked gun policy changes and bipartisan legislative discussions about assault weapon laws.

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, strongly supports hearing from the students at Parkland, spokesman Tom Flanagin said on Wednesday.

“It’s critical to the discussion to hear about the experiences of those who were on campus and to listen to their ideas about how to ensure school safety,” Flanagin said on behalf of the congresswoman.

Following the Parkland mass shooting that killed 17 and, more recently, the arrest of a Poultney, Vermont, teen after he allegedly threatened to kill students at Fair Haven Union High School in Vermont, local law enforcement officials and parents have held several town halls and discussion sessions to express fears and offer potential solutions, including arming teachers and armed guards on campuses.

“Locally, our offices have also heard from families who are concerned about school safety in our region,” Flanagin said. “Congresswoman Stefanik has close relationships with our local law enforcement departments, teachers and school superintendents and will be engaging with them on possible solutions to ensure safe environments for our students.”

But Stefanik does not believe mandatory arming of teachers without proper training is the appropriate solution.

“We do need to have a conversation about greater security on our campuses and that conversation should entail potentially including properly trained, armed guards on campuses if the local school districts support this,” said Flanagin for Stefanik, who remains a second Amendment advocate.

“She is open to commonsense solutions that do not infringe on the constitutional liberties of law-abiding citizens,” said Flanagin. “Congresswoman Stefanik supports commonsense solutions that can help stop these tragedies from occurring.”

NY-21 Democratic congressional candidate Patrick Nelson said Thursday that there are several solutions most everyone agrees on like banning bump stocks and expanded background checks.

“If there is common ground, let’s not hold up what we agree on and get them passed,” Nelson said. “Let’s put away partisan-ism and push through what we all agree on.”

Stefanik is a co-sponsor of legislation that would ban bump stocks, and last Friday, she joined a bipartisan effort to ask House Speaker Paul Ryan to bring up standalone legislation that she is co-sponsoring to improve the background check system.

According to Flanagin, Stefanik co-sponsored two pieces of legislation on Tuesday — H.R. 4909, STOP School Violence Act of 2018, and H.R. 4811, Securing Our Schools Act of 2018 — to make schools safer, and she will continue working with her colleagues on this issue.

“These two pieces of legislation that I am supporting today are commonsense reforms to prevent gun violence in schools and better protect our children,” Stefanik said in a news release.

H.R. 4909 would invest in early intervention and prevention programs to stop school violence before it happens by authorizing Department of Justice state grant awards for training students, school personnel and law enforcement to identify signs of violence and intervention methods.

H.R. 4811 would provide grant funding for devices that immediately notify emergency response personnel and law enforcement, or other devices that allow for appropriate officials in the case of an emergency.

Nelson added that getting rid of the Dickey Amendment, a 1996 law that restricts the Centers for Disease Control from researching gun violence, would help inform decisions by bringing data to gun control solutions.

Warren County files lawsuit against opioid makers

QUEENSBURY — Warren County has filed a lawsuit against companies and people its lawyers blame for the opioid addiction epidemic, claiming that the county and local businesses have paid millions of dollars to counteract the crisis and that the county should be compensated.

The 260-page lawsuit was filed last month in state Supreme Court in Warren County, naming 26 companies involved with the manufacture, distribution and marketing of prescription painkillers as well as four physicians who were on their payrolls as the drugs were developed.

Some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, including Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and Cephalon Inc., were named, but none of the defendants are based locally.

The lawsuit does not cite specific losses for the county, but argues that the county paid for drugs that it shouldn’t have through Medicaid, and those drugs had wide-ranging addiction consequences, including criminal activity. The national medical industry alone has lost an estimated $72.5 billion to treat opioid addiction, according to the lawsuit.

The increased use of opioid pankillers like Oxycontin, Fentanyl, hydrocodone and oxycodone has been blamed for heroin addiction, as pain-pill users moved to the illicit opioids when they couldn’t get, or afford, pills. The lawsuit claims heroin use doubled between 2007 and 2012 nationally, and overdose deaths rose accordingly.

“Increased opioid use has fueled an illegal secondary market for narcotics and the criminals who support it,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit claims there was “deceptive” marketing that ignored reports of deaths and addiction as the number of opioid drug prescriptions rose by more than 50 percent between 2000 and 2009, while use of over-the-counter medication declined.

“Opioid prescriptions increased even as the percentage of patients visiting doctors for pain remained constant,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit cites seven claims of actions, including deceptive marketing, false advertising, public nuisance, fraud, unjust enrichment, negligence and a violation of state Social Services law by concealing facts about opioids.

No court date had been set, and the electronic court file did not show the case assigned yet to a specific judge.

The companies and doctors linked to the opioid painkiller industry have been sued around the country in recent years. The New York City law firm the county hired, Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, told county supervisors last fall that it has won settlements in other parts of the country.

The law firm will get 25 percent of whatever settlement it can negotiate, and will not get paid if it doesn’t win.

Some county supervisors were reluctant to file the lawsuit, questioning what affect it will have on addiction issues. But proponents say the settlement can be used to help agencies that are interacting with addicts, including those involved in rehabilitation.

Saratoga County filed a similar lawsuit last fall, while Washington County supervisors have been mulling litigation as well.