A Resident Outraged

One afternoon six years ago, Debra Hall learned the water in her Hopewell Junction home was toxic. The quest she has embarked on since that day has transformed her and her entire neighborhood

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Debra Hall’s two-floor, raised-ranch home is tucked into a quiet residential stretch of Hopewell Junction, a suburban hamlet of about 2,800 people in the town of East Fishkill, but it could easily be in any of a hundred identical communities in the Hudson Valley. The front lawns of Creamery Road, the tree-lined street on which Hall and her husband David live, are scattered with the hula hoops, basketballs, and other debris that clutter a neighborhood full of children. David has two sons from a previous marriage who stay with him every other weekend. He and Debra married in 1998, and moved from Patterson to their current home in Hopewell in 2001. Both David, 42, and Debra, 48, grew up in more crowded environs — he on Long Island, she in Queens (her “New Yawk” accent still rings true) — so the couple relishes Creamery Road’s quiet nights and expansive space. They bought the house with the intention of growing old together in its bucolic embrace.

While David commutes to and from the city every day for his job as an electrician, Debra spends most of her time alone at home. In 1996, she suffered a debilitating back injury while working. (At the time, she too was employed as an electrician.) Since then, she has been unable to work. Some days, the pain is so excruciating Hall can barely move around the house. She has visited 14 doctors and undergone three surgeries to implant spinal cord stimulators, but still needs to use a cane. “Every day I wake up and just have to hope for the best,” Hall says. For the first few years she lived on Creamery Road, she passed the time by cross-stitching, reading, and watching television. “I didn’t even know my neighbors,” she says. “I would wave to them, and that would be it. I hadn’t learned a name or anything.”

One evening in the spring of 2003, while the couple was relaxing at home, David spotted a small item in the Poughkeepsie Journal and called Debra over to read it. The article said that the Environmental Protection Agency had tested the well water in several homes in Hopewell Junction for a hazardous industrial chemical called trichloroethylene, or TCE. The results indicated that the water in five of the homes — located only a few blocks from the Halls’ residence — was dangerously polluted. Those poor people, Debra thought.

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