08.02.16

SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND: AIR NATIONAL GUARD MUST PLEDGE—NOW—TO PAY FOR SUFFOLK INVESTIGATION & CLEAN-UP OF PFOS-RELATED CONTAMINIATION IF FOUND RESPONSIBLE; SENATORS SAY ANG MUST ALSO COMPENSATE HOMEOWNERS; EVIDENCE POINTS TO ANG AS LIKELY POLLUTER

 Recent Investigation Found Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) In Local Groundwater Wells – Toxic PFOS Was Used by The Air National Guard (ANG) At Grabeski For Fire Prevention 

Schumer, Gillibrand Say Air National Guard Fire Retardants Could Be To Blame & Guard Must Take Responsibility By Footing Bill For Suffolk’s & Homeowners’ Costs 

Schumer, Gillibrand: Suffolk County Taxpayers Deserve Both Crystal Clear Drinking Water & Compensation Pledge From ANG

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, today, called on the Air National Guard (ANG) to commit to fully funding the effort to test for and remediate any and all toxic PFOS-related pollution in and around Gabreski Air National Guard Base. Given that it is highly likely that operations at Gabreski are the source of the PFOS pollution, the senators said that the ANG should make a clear pledge to shoulder investigation and clean-up costs, and to agree to fully compensate any homeowners and local businesses that are negatively impacted by PFOS pollution. The two senators also urged the ANG to assist Suffolk County in determining the exact source and scope of this PFOS contamination, and to help the county devise and fund a remediation plan as soon as possible.

“Suffolk County homeowners and municipalities should not be on the hook for even a drip of the costs of PFOS water contamination that resulted from Air National Guard operations at Gabreski,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “When it comes to drinking water in Suffolk County, we cannot take any chances – only crystal-clear water and crystal-clear answers will do. That’s why Suffolk and worried nearby homeowners deserve the necessary compensation and technical resources to make sure their drinking water is safe for their families. Signs clearly point to the operations at the Base as the source of this pollution and so the ANG must commit to fully compensating the community, the county and impacted homeowners.”  

“Suffolk County homeowners rely on ground water as their drinking water and we must take pollutants like PFOS seriously.  The Air National Guard must pledge to fully compensate Suffolk County and its homeowners to quickly and safely remediate this contamination if they are found to be the source of this pollution,” said. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

“We thank our U.S. senators for advocating for full funding from the Air National Guard to complete the investigation and cover the clean- up costs as well fund the connection costs to public water for those residents affected,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Our top priority is to get as many homes that rely on private wells connected to public water as soon as possible while DEC’s investigation of the site moves forward.”

Schumer and Gillibrand said that perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) is a toxic chemical often used in the manufacturing of products like fabric protectors and stain repellents. PFOS is also an ingredient in firefighting foam that had been used at the Suffolk County Air National Guard base at the airport in training and fire-suppression exercises, according to state regulators, which suspects the foam to be the cause of the groundwater contamination. Suffolk County officials have said that PFOS-containing foam has been used at the airport since the 1970s. According to recent reports, the county health department installed four groundwater monitoring wells south of the airport beginning last month, and three of the four have tested positive for PFOS. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set a health advisory level of 0.07 parts per billion for PFOS — a level over which action to avoid exposure is recommended. According to media reports, preliminary data from one of the monitoring wells found levels of PFOS at 14.3 parts per billion.

According to the EPA’s March 2014 “Emerging Contaminants – Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)” report, PFOS chemicals are no longer allowed to be manufactured in the U.S. As a result, Schumer and Gillibrand said it is critical that the ANG work cooperatively with Suffolk and state regulators identify the exact source of this contamination; act to remediate any pollution; and fully compensate the county, the community and any impacted homeowners and businesses.

“My mother always taught me if you make a mess, you clean it up. And that is just what the Air National Guard must do for any PFOS pollution in and around Gabreski Air Base. And they must do the right thing and publicly pledge to fully compensate homeowners and Suffolk County. The bottom line is that, when it comes to toxic contamination, the polluter must pay, not nearby taxpayers,” added Schumer.

The senators’ letter to the ANG appears below:

Dear Lieutenant General L. Scott Rice:

Following the recent discovery of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) contamination in groundwater near Gabreski Airport, in Suffolk County, we write to urge the Air National Guard (ANG) to quickly assist the community by providing the necessary funding to‎ begin testing their water for PFOS contamination. We further urge the ANG to assist Suffolk County in determining the exact source and scope of this PFOS contamination, and to help them devise and fund a remediation plan as soon as possible.

It has come to our attention that the PFOS contamination was likely caused by firefighting foam that was used by the Air National Guard (ANG) at the Suffolk County Air base. If so, we urge the ANG to immediately provide all of the necessary resources to ensure that residents have access to clean bottled drinking water while also remediating the pollution as quickly as possible.

Furthermore, In light of the recent findings of a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) investigation and the presence of PFOS in three out of four groundwater monitoring wells installed by the county health department, we are requesting that ANG immediately use their experience from prior similar situations in places such as Newburgh NY, and their resources to expeditiously help the community test all relevant water within the community and water systems to help identify the extent of the contamination and determine its source. 

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) is a man-made chemical that was commonly used in a wide variety of commercial and consumer products. PFOS is extremely persistent in the environment and resistant to natural forms of environmental degradation. The toxicity and bioaccumulation potential of PFOS can pose a risk to vulnerable populations, which makes its presence in groundwater near Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach a concern. This high level of contamination must be remediated as soon as possible in order to ensure the health and safety of the community. Therefore, we request that you immediately provide technical and financial support to help the community investigate the full scope of the problem and assist with subsequent remediation as quickly as possible.  

It is imperative that this uncertainty be quickly addressed by quickly identifying the scope of the problem and speedily implementing an effective remediation plan. Again, we thank you for your work in protecting our nation’s health and the quality of our drinking water.  Thank you for your attention to this important request.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer

U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand

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