Schumer Announces DOD Will Send Asst. Sec. Of Air Force John Henderson, & Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Dir. Of ANG, To Stewart ANGB & City Of Newburgh To Brief Residents On Remediation Progress & Conduct Town Hall Meeting

In November, After Schumer’s Urging, Asst. Secretaries Of Defense & The Air Force, Robert McMahon & John Henderson, Visited Newburgh To Investigate Pollution &  Discuss Toxic PFOA/PFOS Water Contamination Stemming From Stewart ANGB

Schumer: Newburgh Residents Deserve Answers From DOD On The Contamination They Caused & How They’ll Clean It Up

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced, following his relentless advocacy – and just 5 months since their last visit to Stewart Air National Guard base – John Henderson, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, and Lieutenant General L. Scott Rice, Director of the Air National Guard, will visit Stewart Air National Guard Base April 18th in New Windsor, NY and the City of Newburgh and conduct a community meeting in Newburgh. Schumer said they will hear from the community and inform the public on the progress being made to address the PFOA/PFOS drinking water contamination resultant from Air National Guard activities on Stewart Air National Guard Base.

Schumer explained that the officials’ visit comes in the wake of Hon. Robert McMahon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, and Hon. John Henderson, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Installations, Environment and Energy, traveling to Newburgh in November to investigate the pollution and to attend a meeting to hear from impacted residents, families and local leaders in and around the Newburgh and New Windsor communities, during which the Department of Defense (DOD) promised to follow-up with locals on the matter.

Senator Schumer said, “The community has rightfully long demanded a full public meeting to get answers and push for quicker clean-up of the PFOS toxic mess created by DOD and ANG at the base. This visit by top brass, and this public meeting, is a step in the right direction, but more work must still be done now to implement interim remediation measures and to speed up the actual implementation of the full remediation plan. This is critical to restore the source of safe drinking water that residents of Newburgh need.”

Schumer explained that the base’s use of firefighting foam caused carcinogenic PFOA/PFOS pollution of Lake Washington and its tributaries, the predominant source of drinking water for the City of Newburgh. According to Schumer, Assistant Secretary Henderson and Lieutenant General Rice will discuss the ongoing PFOA/PFOS remediation efforts with local officials and update residents of Orange County on how the Air National Guard and Department of Defense (DOD) are addressing this dangerous issue.

“After years of non-stop prodding, the Department of Defense finally accepting some culpability for the toxic mess, and keeping the promise made during their visit last November by sending two more high-ranking officials to Stewart Air National Guard Base to update the public on progress being made to eliminate the City’s PFOS/PFOA water contamination is a good thing. I believe that it is imperative for Newburgh residents to know exactly what DOD’s plan is for remediation and for all of their concerns to be heard.  This contamination has impacted many lives over many years, it’s time they look these people in the eye and hear exactly what that means to this community. I am appreciative of Assistant Secretary Henderson and Lieutenant General Rice for scheduling this important trip to Newburgh, and I look forward to working with them and the community leaders to make meaningful progress on the clean-up,” added Schumer.

“Since PFOA/PFOS was discovered in our drinking water almost three years ago, Senator Schumer has been advocating for the City of Newburgh and holding DOD's feet to the fire. I want to thank Senator Schumer for being such a staunch advocate for Newburgh and standing alongside us in our fight to make sure the city’s drinking water is safe for all to consume. Newburgh residents have been seeking answers about this toxic contamination for years now, and this visit from DOD officials is an important step in helping us find some. As Senator Schumer keeps working at the federal level I’ll do everything I can to help him out from the local level as we attempt to put this chemical pollution behind us, once and for all,” said Orange County Legislator Kevindaryán Luján.

Schumer explained that almost 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 PFOA/PFOS, but, while a clean-up study has begun, not enough action has been taken to stanch the source of this contamination. Schumer further explained that the community has not been kept informed in a real-time and detailed way of the clean-up plans and process.

Schumer has long fought to address toxic chemical PFOA/PFOS contamination in New Windsor, impacting Newburgh’s drinking water. In December, Schumer received a commitment from the DoD that the Air National Guard, working with the Army Corps of Engineers, would begin installing interim remedial measures to limit the further discharge of PFOA/PFOS contamination. Last fall, 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. 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 PFOA and PFOS 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 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. 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.



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