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Schumer Has Worked For Years To Clean Up Stewart ANGB Where PFAS Contamination Has Affected Health, Local Economies, And Quality Of Life

Senator Prioritizes Newburgh Drinking Water Cleanup To DoD Nominee Austin 

Schumer To DoD Nominee: Newburgh, New Windsor And Surrounding Communities Have Waited Long Enough – It’s Time To Clean Up the PFAS Mess

Following successfully securing a commitment from the Air National Guard (ANG) that Stewart Air National Guard Base (ANGB) will not be penalized for its surrounding communities seeking alternative drinking water sources, and continuing his efforts to ensure PFAS-free drinking water for the communities surrounding Stewart in Orange County, New York, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, in a virtual meeting last month with President-Elect Biden’s nominee for Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary, Lloyd Austin, pushed for Stewart ANGB’s inclusion in the next phase of the DoD’s nationwide PFAS cleanup efforts.

Specifically, the senator stressed the importance of Stewart ANGB moving onto the next phase of the cleanup process, the Remedial Investigation, in 2021, emphasizing to DoD nominee Austin that 2021 marks five years since the discovery of PFAS-contamination in the City of Newburgh’s main drinking water source. The senator explained that the cleanup of Stewart ANGB must be prioritized immediately by the incoming administration for the health, safety, economic prosperity, and peace of mind of residents living and working in Stewart’s surrounding communities, like Newburgh and New Windsor, that have also been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts.

“For the past four years, the DoD has slow walked the PFAS cleanup at Stewart, allowing the investigation and site reports to trickle forward, but as PFAS continues to flow off base, Orange County residents need action now. I am encouraged that the incoming administration, with renewed leadership at DoD, can work diligently with us to ensure communities get the support they need to address this legacy of pollution at Stewart,” said Senator Schumer. “Making sure that the DoD cleans up its year-long mess at Stewart and in its surrounding communities here in Orange County has always been a top priority, which is why I reiterated, in my first conversation with DoD Nominee Austin, for the DoD to immediately prioritize the PFAS cleanup at Stewart in this year’s site selection process. Eliminating PFAS contamination will not only enhance the health and safety of Hudson Valley residents, but it will also boost the regional economy, making it one of the key issues I will work on with the incoming administration.”

Schumer further explained that, according to the ANG, this December the Air Force was in the process of completing its Relative Risk Site Evaluation (RRSE) for Stewart ANGB, which will be posted on the Air Force Administrative Record to begin a 30-day public comment period in Spring of 2021, along with all installations nationwide undergoing initial RRSEs. Once the public comment periods for initial prioritizations are complete, the Air Force will review public comments for Stewart ANGB and other installations nationwide. The Air Force will then prioritize and rank all installations based on the identified relative risk. According to the ANG, it is expected that this evaluation process will be complete by the end of April 2021. Schumer continues to push for Stewart’s inclusion in the next phase of the cleanup and ranking process, pointing to his long history of steadfast advocacy for the residents’ health, safety, and economic prosperity in the communities surrounding Stewart ANGB.

Schumer has been working for years to secure a commitment from the DoD to prioritize cleanup of PFAS sites across New York and in the Hudson Valley. In November, the Senator wrote to Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett to reconsider Stewart for a Remedial Investigation. Additionally, in 2019, after Schumer secured over $2.4 million for the project, the USAF finally installed its first filtration device on Recreation Pond, marking the first concrete step in stopping the PFAS from flowing off base and restoring safe, clean drinking water for residents.

In the fall of 2018, Schumer met with then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to urge the Air Force to rev up the pace of PFAS contamination investigations and remediation efforts. Schumer also successfully worked to include his amendment to provide funding for the Air National Guard to make payments to reimburse New York State and local water authorities for their ongoing remediation efforts and cleanup of PFAS contamination due to Air National Guard-related activities in the FY2019 Senate Defense Appropriations bill.

In July of 2018, after Schumer’s push, a report concerning the health effects of PFAS was finally released to the public, after its release was seemingly delayed because of political considerations. In September 2017, after Schumer’s urging, DoD immediately began their Site Investigation sampling which included Recreation Pond, another Schumer request, which yielded the highest concentration of PFOS according to the NYDEC’s original testing. In June 2017, during an in-person meeting with then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Schumer called on the DoD to participate in the remediation of toxic PFAS contamination. In May 2017, during a one-on-one meeting with then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Schumer called on the Air Force to pledge that they would prioritize the prompt remediation of the PFAS contamination at Stewart ANGB.

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are two types of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of manufactured chemicals, and are persistent in the environment and resist degradation. These toxic chemicals are often used to manufacture products like fabric protectors, firefighting foam, and stain repellents. They are common primary ingredients in the firefighting foam that was used at Air National Guard bases for training and fire-suppression exercises, according to state regulators. Exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to certain cancers and other serious adverse health effects.