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Hoosick Falls, Newburgh, Suffolk County, and More Have Recently Suffered From PFAS Contamination of Drinking Water That Has Impacted Public Health

Washington, DC – U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $890,851 in federal funding to support a New York State health study on toxic PFAS chemicals. This funding was allocated through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and will be used to expand a biomonitoring program to better assess the extent of PFAS exposure in New York communities. New York State is one of six recipients for this funding and is expected to receive a total of about $5 million of federal funding for this study over the course of five years.

“From Newburgh to Hoosick Falls to Suffolk County, New Yorkers across the state have been plagued by the toxic contamination of their drinking water by PFAS. Worse still, we don’t even know the complete extent of this carcinogenic contamination Upstate and on Long Island,” said Senator Schumer. “Fortunately, with this federal funding, New York will be able to expand its PFAS biomonitoring program to better identify exactly how its residents’ health and well-being are being impacted by this pollution. No matter where they live, the people of New York deserve to know they aren’t being made sick by their drinking water.”

“I have heard directly from many New Yorkers whose drinking water has been polluted by PFAS, and I share their grave concerns about the health effects of these dangerous chemicals,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I have long called for the CDC to conduct blood testing for New York residents so that they can better understand what PFAS exposure means for their health, and this CDC funding will help New York expand their biomonitoring program to do just that. This is an important step forward, and I will continue to do everything I can to help our communities in New York and throughout the country recover from this crisis.”

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manufactured chemicals, including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), that are persistent in the environment and resist degradation. Exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to certain cancers and other serious, adverse health effects. Communities throughout New York State, including Hoosick Falls, Newburgh, Suffolk County, and more, have been affected by PFAS contamination. Schumer and Gillibrand have long fought to address the serious environmental and health effects of PFAS contamination. Last year, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand successfully included $10 million in funding for the CDC to conduct a nationwide health study to determine the effects of exposure to PFAS in drinking water in the national defense appropriations bill. Schumer and Gillibrand also 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 last year, after a push from both senators, a report concerning the health effects of PFAS was finally released to the public, after its release was seemingly delayed because of political considerations.

Schumer has long fought to address toxic chemical PFOA/PFOS contamination at Stewart Air National Guard Base in New Windsor, impacting the City of Newburgh’s drinking water. Similar PFAS contamination and exposure has occurred at and near Gabreski Air Base in Suffolk County. In December of last year, Schumer secured 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, and this April secured a $2 million grant from the DOD for a filtration system on Recreation Pond, which had the highest PFOS concentration on base. 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. 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 PFOA/PFOS contamination. In May 2017, during a one-on-one meeting with then-Air Force Secretary 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.

Gillibrand has been one of the leaders in the Senate fighting to protect communities from PFAS exposure, and two of her bipartisan bills to combat PFAS contamination across the country successfully passed the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The first piece of legislation, introduced with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), would require the EPA to set an enforceable drinking water standard for toxic PFAS chemicals. The other bill, introduced with Senators Capito and Tom Carper (D-DE), would identify and publicly share sources of PFAS emissions in New York and across the country. Gillibrand also announced that an amendment she co-authored to ban PFAS chemicals in firefighting foams used on military bases was also included as a part of the Senate NDAA. Gillibrand has long advocated for biomonitoring programs to help address the health concerns of New York residents affected by PFAS contamination. In 2016, she called on the CDC to partner with the New York State Department of Health to offer blood testing for Newburgh residents exposed to PFAS chemicals. She also requested the CDC to proactively conduct a public health assessment of the Saint-Gobain Site in Hoosick Falls.