SCHUMER ANNOUNCES, AFTER HIS RELENTLESS MULTI-YEAR ADVOCACY, THE AIR NATIONAL GUARD WILL INSTALL INTERIM REMEDIATION MEASURES TO CAPTURE PFOS CONTAMINATION AROUND STEWART AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LIMITING THE SPREAD OF CONTAMINATED WATER; SAYS FILTRATION MEASURES INTENDED TO BE FULLY FUNCTIONAL WITHIN MONTHS
In May 2016, The City Of Newburgh’s Main Drinking Water Source, Washington Lake, Was Found To Be Contaminated By PFOA/PFOS As A Result Of The Use Of Firefighting Foam On Stewart ANGB, Endangering Health Of Thousands Of Residents, Who Were Unaware of Threat For Years
After Years Of Calling On The Department Of Defense To Install A Filtration System At Recreation Pond & Other Interim Remedial Measures, Schumer Announces That He Has Received Commitment From Department Of Defense That Interim Remedial Measure Will Be Up & Running Within A Few Months
Schumer: A New Filtration System On Rec Pond Is Long-Overdue & A Critical Step To Stop The Flow Of This Devastating Carcinogenic PFOS/PFOA Contamination
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that, following his years-long push, the New York Air National Guard (ANG) will begin installing interim remedial measures in the areas around Stewart Air National Guard Base to limit the further discharge of PFOS/PFOA contamination. Specifically, the Air National Guard has proposed installing a treatment system at the wall exiting Recreation Pond.
Next month, the Army Corps of Engineers will visit Stewart to determine the specifics for the treatment system. The Department of Defense (DOD) expects that the system would be functional and actual filtration would begin in the next three to six months. According to DOD officials, this $2-3 million effort would be funded with existing Air National Guard funds. Stopping the flow of PFOS/PFOA now – via so-called interim remedial measures – has been the number one priority for the residents and community leaders impacted by the PFOS/PFOA contamination from Stewart ANG Base, and was thus a focus for Senator Schumer’s advocacy on behalf of Newburgh.
Schumer said, “Finally convincing the powers that be at DOD and the ANG that it could take steps – right now – to start the PFOS clean-up via the filtration of Recreation Pond, and prevent the ongoing migration of this carcinogenic chemical off base, is an absolutely massive step forward for the whole Newburgh community. I thank the Air National Guard and DOD for listening and – more importantly – for acting to protect public health, take responsibility for this toxic mess and for working more collaboratively with me and the community to address this challenge instead of hiding behind process and legal arguments.”
Schumer has long called for the DOD to take responsibility for the toxic PFOA/PFOS contamination and implement interim remedial measures, like filtration equipment at Recreation Pond, including in a meeting with USAF Secretary Heather Wilson, multiple conversations with Defense Secretary James Mattis, and in a letter to the USAF, among numerous other instances.
“I’m so pleased that after years of foot-dragging, the DOD and ANG are moving in a positive direction and commencing plans to implement long-awaited and desperately needed interim remedial measures around Stewart Air National Guard Base, including the installation of stormwater filtration equipment at the highest tested location, Recreation Pond. This equipment will be a key component of ensuring that PFOS-contaminated water is no longer continuing to flow off base and is thwarted from further infiltrating and toxifying the city’s primary drinking water source,” said Senator Schumer. “No resident of Newburgh should have to worry that they will be harmed by the water they drink, nor should contaminated water continue flowing off base over two years since its discovery; once this critical filtration system is up and running within the next few months, we will be one step closer to making that a reality.”
Schumer said that this coming January, the Army Corps of Engineers will visit Newburgh to determine the best approach for the remedial measures and stormwater filtration equipment installation. According to the DOD, stormwater filtration is expected to be up and running within 3 to 6 months. The announcement that the Air National Guard would implement interim remedial measures came on the heels of a visit to the community by DOD Assistant Secretary Robert McMahon, Air Force Assistant Secretary John Henderson, and DOD Deputy Assistant Secretary Maureen Sullivan.
Schumer 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 likely came from the release of aqueous-forming foam (AFFF) from Stewart. The testing also showed one of the outfalls discharging stormwater 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 Superfund site. The Air National Guard completed a site inspection the inspection helped identify 13 potential release locations at the base. They soon presented a work plan to remediate the contamination but the plan did not include waterways like Recreation Pond, which has continued to receive substantial amounts of PFOS from the airport drainage, or any other off-base waterways that were nonetheless contaminated as a direct result of the chemical release at Stewart.
Schumer has long fought to address toxic chemical PFOA/PFOS contamination in New Windsor, impacting Newburgh’s drinking water. Several weeks ago, Schumer met with Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson to urge the Air Force to rev up the pace of PFOA/PFOS contamination investigations and remediation efforts. This September, Schumer and Sen. Gillibrand successfully worked to include their 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 PFOA and PFOS contamination due to ANG-related activities in the FY2019 Senate Defense Appropriations bill. In July of this year, after Schumer and Gillibrand’s push, a report concerning the health effects of polyfluoroalkyl substances (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 U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Schumer called on the Department of Defense to participate in the remediation of toxic PFOA/PFOS contamination. Lastly, in May 2017, during a one-on-one meeting with Air Force Secretary Heather Heather Wilson, Schumer called on the USAF 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 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.