AFTER DECADES OF ARSENIC SEEPING INTO PUTNAM DRINKING WATER & SOIL, SCHUMER CALLS ON EPA TO PUT KENT MINE ON NATIONAL PRIORITIES CLEAN-UP LIST ASAP; SENATOR DEMANDS EPA CLEAN UP THE MESS ASAP & FINALLY RESTORE PUBLIC HEALTH AND PEACE OF MIND IN PUTNAM
For +30 Years, Abandoned Mine In Kent Has Seeped Arsenic Into Wells, Poisoning Drinking Water, Soil & Endangering Public Health; Samples Surrounding Wells Contain Arsenic Levels As High As 1,600x EPA Guidance
EPA Finally Acknowledged Site’s Risk & Added It To “Proposed” National Priorities List, But Senator Urges EPA To Move Site To Full National Priorities List To Unlock Federal Resources For Clean-Up And Expedite Process
Schumer To Feds: After 30 Years, Putnam’s Toxic Arsenic Mess Can’t Be Ignored One More Day
Standing at Nimham Mountain Multiple Use Area, flanked by concerned residents, advocates, and Putnam County officials, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today sounded the alarm on a toxic mess in the Town of Kent that has been damaging public health and well-being in the area for over 30 years, and launched a push to clean it up. Since 1987, arsenic has been leaking from an abandoned mine near the intersection of Gipsy Trail Road and Mt. Nimham Court onto residential properties, exposing local residents to contaminated water and soil and even hospitalizing multiple locals over the years.
Schumer explained that while the EPA has acknowledged the site’s harmful potential by issuing a public health advisory on it, and by adding it to its Proposed National Priorities List, it has not yet added it to its National Priorities List (NPL), impeding a comprehensive, federally-funded clean-up effort from commencing. Therefore, Schumer called on the EPA to immediately add the Arsenic Mine Site in Kent to its final NPL, to protect Putnam residents from the hazard to public health and restore peace of mind in the area.
“For over thirty years, Putnam communities have been forced to live with a toxic arsenic mess in their backyards, and with the chemical seeping into their soil and drinking water, endangering their health and well-being. Simply put, this is wrong, and the EPA knows it, too,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why today I’m putting my foot down, demanding the EPA stop kicking the can down the road, and urging it to add the Kent Arsenic Mine Site to the National Priorities List right away, to unlock the federal resources needed to speed up this long-overdue remediation process. No resident of Putnam County should have to worry that they are being harmed by the land they live on or the water they drink, and I won’t stop fighting until some peace of mind is restored in the area.”
“We are grateful to Senator Schumer for his help in advocating on a national level to the Environmental Protection Agency. Taking action to ensure the health and safety of Putnam County residents of all ages is always our top priority,” said Dr. Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD, Putnam County Commissioner of Health.
Schumer detailed how Kent residents have been suffering from arsenic-contaminated water for decades. Furthermore, Schumer explained that the EPA has known that the Kent community has been struggling with arsenic contamination for over 30 years, and failed to take any long-term, meaningful action on it. In 1987, after hearing that a local well had been contaminated by arsenic runoff from the abandoned mine, it installed a tank for trucked-in water at one Kent residence, effectively acknowledging the issue. Schumer said that even three decades later, the EPA still continues to drag its feet by neglecting to move the Kent Arsenic Mine Site to its NPL.
29 years after the installation of this tank, in 2016, the new owner of the property it resided on asked for help from the EPA in repairing it. While conducting these repairs, the EPA found that sediment with high levels of arsenic had entered the tank, contaminating the water. The EPA then conducted additional testing of soil at four residential sites near the mine, finding that it contained arsenic levels as high as 34,250 parts per million (ppm), which is almost 1,000 times higher than EPA’s Removal Management Level (RML) of 35 ppm. While EPA has taken some interim actions, Schumer explained, rather than immediately proposing the site to the NPL, the EPA proceeded to order additional testing from other sites near the mine, and found further proof of contamination, with one sample reaching 20,600 ppm. That still was not enough, so in 2018, the EPA tested soil around the area yet again, finding arsenic concentrations in samples as much as 1,500 times higher than the EPA’s RML.
Schumer said that on April 30 of this year, the EPA’s testing and found concentrations of arsenic prompted the Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to issue an urgent public health advisory on the matter. Schumer said that in its advisory, the agency concluded that exposure to arsenic found in the soil near the abandoned mine presented, “an immediate and significant threat to human health constituting an urgent public health hazard.” ASTDR further recommended that EPA take both short- and long-term measures to protect residents, and children, specifically, from arsenic exposure near the mine. The EPA performed its own analysis of the site, concluding, similarly, that it posed a significant threat to public health and well-being.
Schumer explained that EPA Region 2 has taken an important step in the right direction by adding the Kent Arsenic Mine Site to its Proposed National Priorities List, which happened on June 3, 2019, but reiterated that we need swift action to begin clean up as soon as possible. According to its nomination to the Proposed NPL, the EPA has already determined that remediating the Arsenic Mine Site is more appropriate and more cost-effective than utilizing its removal authority under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. Schumer explained that this means the Kent Arsenic Mine Site has already met the qualifications for listing on the final NPL, as outlined under Section 300.425 (c) of the National Contingency Plan (NCP). Schumer said that the EPA dated this memo May 14, 2019, and still hasn’t followed up by adding the site to the NPL.
Therefore, Schumer urged the EPA to move the Arsenic Mine Site in Kent on to the final NPL as soon as possible. This, Schumer explained, would protect the people of Putnam County from this grave threat to public health by ensuring that federal resources are unlocked and the remediation process proceeds quickly. Schumer argued that the EPA has spent 30 years dragging its feet on the issue, and that even one more day is too many for the people of Putnam County.
Schumer explained that arsenic exposure to humans mainly occurs from the ingestion of contaminated water and food. Those exposed to arsenic can experience both immediate and long-term health effects. Long-term exposure can lead to developmental effects, diabetes, pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and infant mortality. Among the most severe of the long term effects include skin, bladder, and lung cancer. Arsenic is the only carcinogen known to cause cancer through respiratory exposure and gastrointestinal exposure.
Dear Administrator Wheeler,
I write to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to officially move the Arsenic Mine Site in Kent, New York to the National Priorities List so that a comprehensive cleanup can begin immediately. The Arsenic Mine Site remains on the proposed National Priorities List (NPL), despite meeting the requirements outlined under Section 300.425(c) of the National Contingency Plan (NCP) for full inclusion on the NPL. It is crucial to the local community’s health and safety that the EPA takes decisive action today.
Kent residents have been suffering from arsenic contaminated water for decades. In 1987, the EPA installed a tank for trucked-in water at one Kent residence after discovering that arsenic had leached into their well from the nearby abandoned mine. The problem had gone undiagnosed for so long that three locals had to be hospitalized. This was more than 30 years ago, and yet the EPA continues to drag its feet in listing this toxic site on the NPL. In 2016, the new owner of the aforementioned residence requested the EPA assist in repairing the EPA-installed water system. While performing the repairs, the EPA found sediment testing high in arsenic was entering through one of the tank lids. The EPA’s subsequent soil sampling from four residential properties near the mine found arsenic levels as high as 34,250 parts per million (ppm), almost 1000 times higher than EPA’s Removal Management Level (RML) of 35 ppm. While EPA has taken some interim actions since this discovery, EPA ordered more testing in 2017 from additional sites around the mine and again found incredibly high arsenic levels in the soil, with one sample reaching 20,600 ppm. This was not enough evidence, so in 2018, a third round of testing was ordered for deeper soil and the results identified arsenic concentrations that were more than 1,500 times higher than EPA’s RML.
On April 30, 2019, the EPA’s testing prompted the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to issue an urgent public health advisory. The agency concluded that exposure to arsenic in the soil from residential properties near the Arsenic Mine Site posed an immediate and significant threat to human health constituting an urgent public health hazard. The ATSDR went on to recommend that EPA should take short- and long-term action to protect residents, especially children, from arsenic exposure at the mine. The EPA also performed its own analysis and determined that the Arsenic Mine Site presented a significant threat to public health.
According to the EPA’s own National Priority List Nomination for the Arsenic Mine Site Memorandum, the EPA has already determined that remediating the Arsenic Mine Site is more appropriate and cost effective than utilizing the EPA’s removal authority under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. This means the Arsenic Mine Site has met the qualifications for listing on the NPL as outlined under the Section 300.425(c) of the National Contingency Plan (NCP). The EPA’s memo is dated May 14, 2019, and yet as of today the EPA has yet to list the Arsenic Mine Site on the NPL. Given these facts, it is essential that the EPA formally place the Kent site on the NPL without further delay.
I urge the EPA to immediately move the Arsenic Mine Site in Kent, New York onto the NPL to protect the people of Putnam County from this serious public health hazard. The EPA has spent 30 years dragging its feet on this issue and even one more day is too much for the people of New York.
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