11.07.18

SCHUMER ANNOUNCES, FOLLOWING HIS RECENT MEETING WITH AIR FORCE SECRETARY WILSON, THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE AND AIR FORCE HAVE AGREED TO SEND SENIOR OFFICIALS TO STEWART AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE THIS MONTH TO DELIVER LONG-AWAITED PUBLIC MEETING ON PFOA/PFOS CONTAMINATION REMEDIATION EFFORTS

Following His Push In A Meeting With Air Force Secretary Wilson Several Weeks Ago, Schumer Announced That John Henderson And Robert McMahon, Assistant Secretaries Of The Air Force And Office Of The Secretary Of Defense, Will Attend A Public Meeting This Month In Orange County On The Ongoing PFOA/PFOS Contamination And Remediation Efforts 

 In May 2016, The City Of Newburgh’s Primary Source Of Drinking Water, 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 Residents; To Date, DOD/ANG Has Not Publicly Met With Residents 

Schumer To Feds: Talking Directly To Impacted Residents And Families Is A Step In The Right Direction, But There Is Still More Work To Be Done To Clean Up This Toxic Mess ASAP

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that, following his recent meeting with Air Force Secretary Wilson, on November 15th Hon. John Henderson, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Installations, Environment and Energy, and Hon. Robert McMahon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, will visit Stewart Air National Guard Base in New Windsor, NY and the City of Newburgh to attend a public meeting to hear from impacted residents, families and local leaders in and around the Newburgh and New Windsor communities. The Assistant Secretaries will also be briefed by the New York Air National Guard (ANG) on how the base contaminated the nearby Washington Lake with PFOA/PFOS, and the ANG’s plans to remediate this contamination. Sen. Schumer has consistently criticized clean-up efforts for being too slow, too bureaucratic and lacking regular and detailed communication with the local community.

Schumer explained that the base’s use of firefighting foam caused this 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 Secretaries Henderson and McMahon will discuss the ongoing PFOA/PFOS remediation efforts with local officials and attend an event with residents of Orange County on how the Air National Guard is addressing this dangerous issue. Schumer called the visit from the Department of Defense (DOD) leadership a step in the right direction, and lauded Secretary Wilson for her responsiveness, but said that more work must still be done now to implement interim remediation measures and to speed up the actual implementation of the full remediation plan. Schumer said this is critical to restore the source of safe drinking water that residents of Newburgh need.

“When I met recently with Air Force Secretary Wilson I explained that the City of Newburgh’s drinking water source was severely contaminated by toxic PFOA/PFOS that originated on Stewart Air National Guard Base, and up to this point, the Air Force and Department of Defense’s response has been sorely lacking. Clearly, the Secretary heard me and has been responsive, which is good news. Today I am pleased to announce that the Department of Defense and Air Force have heeded my call, and will be sending senior representatives to Stewart ANGB to meet with the community and to be briefed by the Air National Guard on their efforts to remediate the toxic contamination,” said Senator Schumer. “While this visit is certainly a step in the right direction, there is still much more work to be done now to implement interim remediation measures and to speed up the actual implementation of the full remediation plan.”

“I am very pleased that senior leadership from the Air Force and the Department of Defense will visit the City of Newburgh to address the community’s concerns surrounding PFAS contamination. Residents and community leaders have been working to clean up the contamination in their drinking water originating from the use of firefighting foam at Stewart Air National Guard Base, and this meeting will give them the opportunity to directly engage with the DOD on how to fix this problem going forward,” said Senator Gillibrand. "New York is proud to be the home of many committed National Guard men and women, and we take our defense responsibilities and our promise of clean water for all New Yorkers seriously.”

Schumer explained that over two years ago, it was discovered that the City of Newburgh’s drinking source, Washington Lake, near the Stewart Air National Guard Base in Orange County, had been dangerously contaminated by PFOA/PFOS, but, while study has begun, not enough action has been taken to staunch the source of this contamination. And further 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. 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.

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