AFTER MAJOR PUSH, SCHUMER & GILLIBRAND SUCCESSFULLY INCLUDE PROVISIONS PROVIDING AUTHORIZATION, FUNDING FOR CONTAINMENT AND REMEDIATION OF NEWBURGH PFOA & PFOS WATER CONTAMINATION IN THE NATIONAL DEFENSE BILL
Schumer and Gillibrand Successfully Locked In New Provisions That Would Clear The Way For $25 Million In Federal Funds To Address The Contamination; Senators Vow to Fight To Keep Provisions In Final Conference Bill
Senators Says Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) In Newburgh, NY Poses Health & Environmental Risks To The Newburgh Community And The DoD Must Stop Side Stepping Responsibility And Work To Fully Address It
Senators: This Is A Giant Step Forward To Addressing the Toxic PFOS Mess At Stewart ANGB And In Newburgh’s Water Supply
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Armed Services Committee, today announced they were successful in including provisions to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to authorize $20 million in Sustainment, Restoration, and Modernization (SRM) funds for the Air Force to remediate PFOS and PFOA contamination at impacted Stewart Airbase in Newburgh, New York and to ensure that the Air Force has the authority to mitigate and clean up National Guard and Reserve installations. When allotted, this funding would be used specifically for mitigation actions at National Guard bases where site inspections confirm polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination. The Senators said perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate acid (PFOA), a related chemical, are linked to certain cancers and other serious adverse health effects. The contamination stemmed from Stewart Air National Guard Base as a result of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) used to fight fires. The Senators also announced provisions that would fund a Centers for Disease Control study on the impacts of PFAS, including PFOS and PFOA, as well as more research on alternatives to the fire-fighting foam that the military is now using and alternative mitigation options.
“While the Department of Defense is busy trying to erase their culpability – we were successful in including an amendment in NDAA that will force DoD to fully address the toxic mess they made at Stewart Air National Guard Base. Up until now, the DoD has spent more time and energy trying to circumvent liability than it has honoring its responsibility to taxpayers and innocent families. This amendment will clear the way for $20 million in critical funds so that the DoD can begin the process of containing the plume and most importantly, for a full remediation,” said Senator Schumer. “While this is a big step forward to bring some relief to Newburgh, I won’t stop until residents in Newburgh have the clean water they need.”
“No New Yorker should ever have to wonder if their drinking water is going to make them sick,” said Senator Gillibrand, the Ranking Member on the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “Chemicals leaking into our drinking water supply should never happen in the first place, but when it does, Congress and the Defense Department have a responsibility to make sure affected communities like Newburgh have the resources and information they need to recover – and to prevent it from happening again. I was proud to fight on the Armed Services Committee for this funding and this authorization to be included in the National Defense bill.
Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) is a toxic chemical often used in the manufacturing of products like fabric protectors, firefighting foam and stain repellents. According to the EPA’s March 2014 “Emerging Contaminants – Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)” report, PFOS chemicals are no longer allowed to be manufactured in the United States. PFOS is also an ingredient in firefighting foam that had been used at the Stewart Air National Guard base in training and fire-suppression exercises, according to state regulators, which suspects the foam to be the cause of the groundwater contamination.
The Senators explained the rates of contamination in Newburgh’s water were well beyond the acceptable 70 parts per trillion limit of human exposure to the related PFOA and PFOS. Testing done by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in March of 2016 showed water supply contamination came from the release of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) from Stewart. The testing also showed one of the outfalls discharging storm water into Recreation Pond contained 5,900 ppt PFOS, almost 85 times the EPA health advisory limit of 70 ppt. The base was then declared a New York State Superfund site. The Air National Guard completed a site inspection and the inspection helped identify 13 potential release locations at the base.
The Senators have long held the Department of Defense and the Air Force accountable for Newburgh’s water contamination. During a one-on-one meeting with Defense Secretary Mattis, Schumer urged him to accelerate PFOA and PFOS cleanup efforts in Newburgh. In then-U.S Air Force Secretary Nominee Heather Wilson’s confirmation hearing, Gillibrand asked her to address this concern. Additionally, in a meeting with Wilson, Schumer pressed her to prioritize the prompt clean-up of the toxic PFOA water contamination, and asked that the Air Force promptly begin and fund the full remediation of the contamination, compensate the impacted local communities, and take responsibility for any interim remedial measures with all due speed. Schumer’s meeting with Wilson was on the heels of media reports which detailed the DoD’s attempts to circumvent legal liability for the contamination on Stewart and in the nearby waterways.
Previously, Schumer and Gillibrand, along Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, urged U.S. Department of Defense to immediately install carbon filtration units at the site of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) contamination at the Stewart Air National Guard Base in order to halt the continued discharge of contaminated water into Silver Stream. Schumer has also pushed the Department of Defense to include surrounding streams and waterways including the source, Recreation Pond and Washington Lake to its draft remediation work plan in order to ensure that the DoD addresses the entire scope of contamination.
Last year, Schumer introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require DoD to launch an investigation to determine the extent of possible ground water contamination in the City of Newburgh. Schumer vowed to keep fighting for Newburgh and introduced a stand-alone bill to ensure residents are neither left footing the cost of this cleanup effort, nor suffering the consequences from the contamination of Washington Lake.
In addition to the legislation Schumer introduced, he has directly engaged Air Force leadership. Schumer sent a letter to Lieutenant General L. Scott Rice, director of the Air National Guard, to release an expedited timeline and work plan for the identification and clean-up of any and all PFOS pollution. In May of 2016, Schumer directed USAF Secretary Nominee Heather Wilson to prioritize the prompt cleanup of the toxic PFOA water contamination.
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