Skip to content


In 2016, The City Of Newburgh’s Drinking Water Source, Washington Lake, Was Found To Be Contaminated By PFAS—Due To Use Of Firefighting Foam At Stewart ANGB; Toxic Pollution Endangered Health Of Thousands Of Residents

Schumer Has Spearheaded Efforts To Take More Aggressive Action To Remediate Contamination On/Near Stewart Base, Including Securing Filtration System & Watching Like A Hawk To Break Bureaucratic Logjams; Today Announces Filtration System At Recreation Pond Is Officially Operable

Schumer: This Long-Overdue Filtration System Is A Critical Step In Stopping The Flow Of This Devastating, Carcinogenic Contamination

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced, after months of delay and frustration from the local community, that the installation of interim PFAS-remediation measures at Recreation Pond in New Windsor has finally been completed, including a filtration system that Schumer led the charge to secure from the Department of Defense (DOD).

Schumer has spearheaded the PFAS remediation process in Newburgh every step of the way. After community leaders indicated that securing interim remedial measures was their top priority, Schumer overcame considerable DOD and U.S. Air Force (USAF) reluctance to take immediate action to address ongoing contamination of the water supply and got them to commit to take action. Schumer soon secured the original investment of $2.4 million through the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to fund the installation of the filtration system. Then, when he learned that bureaucratic delays, including the approval of a Right of Entry Agreement (ROE) by the USACE and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) had been impeding its construction, Schumer leapt into action, cut through the bureaucratic red tape, and ensured that all relevant approvals were promptly submitted. Today’s official end of construction of the filtration system marks a major step of progress for Newburgh, even though Schumer said that there is still more remediation work that must be done to restore the safe, clean drinking water that residents of the surrounding communities need and deserve. 

“At long last, after years of pushing and prodding reluctant agencies to install this water filtration at Recreation Pond, all systems are go and we can finally begin cleaning up the toxic PFAS contamination of Newburgh’s drinking water supply,” said Senator Schumer. “When Newburgh community leaders made it clear to me that getting interim remedial measures, like filtration of Recreation Pond, was their top priority, I made it my top priority and communicated that to top DOD brass, up to and including then-Secretary of Defense Mattis and the Secretary of the Air Force. While the hard work to remediate the PFAS in Newburgh is just beginning, today’s news marks a major step of progress in our efforts to restore the safe, clean drinking water that Newburgh residents need and deserve. I’ve been proud to lead the charge to secure the federal funding for this system and get it installed, because no one should fear that their health or that of their family is being damaged by the water they drink.” 

Schumer explained that over three years ago, it was discovered that the City of Newburgh’s drinking source, Washington Lake, near the Stewart Air National Guard Base in New Windsor, had been dangerously contaminated by PFAS. Schumer explained that the base’s use of firefighting foam caused carcinogenic PFAS pollution of Lake Washington and its tributaries, the predominant source of drinking water for the City of Newburgh. In March 2016, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) tested Recreation Pond’s water and found it contained certain PFAS contaminants almost 85 times the EPA health advisory limit, which likely came from the release of aqueous-forming foam from Stewart ANGB

Schumer has long fought to address toxic chemical PFAS contamination in New Windsor, impacting Newburgh’s drinking water. In December of last year, Schumer received a commitment from the DOD that the Air National Guard, contracting with the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the work, would begin installing interim remedial measures to limit the further discharge of PFAS contamination, and this May secured a $2.4 million through USACE to fund the installation of the filtration system on Recreation Pond. Last fall, Schumer met with Secretary of the Air Force 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 (ANG) to make payments to reimburse New York State and local water authorities for their ongoing remediation efforts and cleanup of PFAS contamination due to ANG-related activities in the FY2019 Senate Defense Appropriations bill. 

In July of last year, 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-U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Schumer called on the Department of Defense 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 Air National Guard Base.

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.