05.26.17

SCHUMER REVEALS: YET AGAIN, U.S. AIR FORCE AND AIR NATIONAL GUARD ARE DELAYING CLEANUP OF PFC WATER CONTAMINATION IN NEWBURGH; THIS TIME DOD IS REFUSING TO USE SITE SAMPLES ALREADY TAKEN BY DEC; SENATOR SAYS THIS IS ANOTHER TACTIC TO EVADE RESPONSIBILITY FOR CLEANUP

Schumer Says DEC Has Already Taken Water Samples To Test For PFOA In Newburgh’s Water Supply, However DOD Is Refusing To Use Samples; Delaying Cleanup And Wasting Taxpayer Dollars 

Senator Continues To Hold U.S. Air Force Accountable For The Swift Remediation Of Toxic PFOS Mess At Stewart ANGB And In Newburgh’s Water Supply  

Schumer: DOD Is Playing Every Trick In The Book To Avoid Paying For Cleanup

During a visit to Orange County today, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said the Department of Defense (DOD) is once again dragging its feet following last month’s media reports that Air Force (USAF) is actively pursuing avenues for indemnification under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Schumer said USAF has indicated that it does not intend to produce a report on the extent of contamination or a corresponding Work Plan until the fall due to an internal policy that requires DOD take its own samples of the contamination. Schumer said this is an unnecessarily duplicative and time consuming approach, as DOD is not required by federal law to take its own samples to develop a plan for remediation; DOD can accept contamination samples already taken by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Schumer urged DOD to immediately begin to develop a Work Plan using site samples already taken by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).

“It is unfathomable to me that the Department of Defense could be this committed to avoiding responsibility for the toxic mess they made at Stewart Air National Guard Base. Simply put, DOD has used more time and energy trying to circumvent liability than it has honoring its responsibility to taxpayers and innocent families. DOD must begin the process of containing the plume and most importantly, provide the State with the funds necessary for a full remediation. My message to DOD is clear: Accept and promptly use and the scientifically sound sampling of the DEC to develop a Work Plan with all due speed. Any other approach to sampling is unacceptable, an unnecessary impediment to full remediation, and it places the financial burden of clean-up on taxpayers who are not in any way responsible for this toxic contamination of their drinking supply,” Senator Schumer. 

Schumer has long held the Department of Defense and the Air Force accountable for Newburgh’s water contamination. Recently in a meeting with then U.S Air Force Secretary Nominee Heather Wilson, Schumer pressed her to prioritize the prompt clean-up of the toxic PFOA water contamination, and asked that the Air Force promptly begin and fund the full remediation of the contamination, compensate the impacted local communities, and take responsibility for any interim remedial measures with all due speed. Schumer’s meeting with Wilson came on the heels of media reports which detailed the DOD’s attempts to circumvent legal liability for the contamination on Stewart and in the nearby waterways. Previously Schumer, along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Sean Patrick-Maloney, urged U.S. Department of Defense to immediately install carbon filtration units at the site of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) contamination at the Stewart Air National Guard Base in order to halt the continued discharge of contaminated water into Silver Stream. He has also pushed the Department of Defense to include surrounding streams and waterways including the source, Recreation Pond and Washington Lake to its draft remediation work plan in order to ensure that the DOD addresses the entire scope of contamination.

Last year, Schumer introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require DOD to launch an investigation to determine the extent of possible ground water contamination in the City of Newburgh. Schumer vowed to keep fighting for Newburgh and introduced a stand-alone bill to ensure residents are neither left footing the cost of this cleanup effort, nor suffering the consequences from the contamination of Washington Lake. 

Schumer was joined by City of Newburgh Manager Michael Ciaravino, Mayor Judy Kennedy, County Executive Steve Neuhaus, and Water Superintendent Wayne Vradenburgh.

“Senator Schumer, the City of Newburgh thanks you for your continued support as we call on the United States Department of Defense to clean-up the source of the contamination at the Stewart Air National Guard site, said City of Newburgh Manager Michael G. Ciaravino. “It is indefensible that the Department of Defense will continue to pollute our watershed without any action. The lack of response by the Department of Defense to address the source of the contamination not only puts the drinking water safety of the residents and businesses in the City of Newburgh in peril, but that of the drinking water safety of many people throughout the Mid-Hudson Valley as well. I stand with United States Senator Charles Schumer as we call on the United States Department of Defense to begin clean-up of the contamination immediately at the Stewart Air National Guard base.”

“Clean and safe water and air are basic human rights which we all expect and deserve. The Federal Government must do the right thing for its citizens. This is non-negotiable.  I thank Senator Schumer for taking this matter seriously and for looking to remedy the situation,” said Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus

In addition to the legislation Schumer introduced, he has directly engaged Air Force leadership. Schumer sent a letter to Lieutenant General L. Scott Rice, director of the Air National Guard to release an expedited timeline and work plan for the identification and clean-up of any and all PFOS pollution. In May of 2016, Schumer directed USAF Secretary Nominee Heather Wilson to prioritize the prompt cleanup of the toxic PFOA water contamination.

Schumer’s letter to Secretary of the Air Force appears below:

Heather Wilson

Secretary of the Air Force

Dear Secretary Wilson,

I write regarding the ongoing perfluorinated compound (PFC) contamination issue at the Stewart Air National Guard Base (ANGB) in New Windsor, New York. Following last month’s media reports that Air Force (USAF) is actively pursuing avenues for indemnification under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), my office has received indications from USAF that it does not intend to produce a Site Investigation report until the fall due to internal PFC testing requirements. This is an unnecessarily duplicative and time consuming approach and I urge you to immediately begin to develop a Work Plan using site samples from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).

As you know, testing conducted by the NYSDEC in summer 2016 found unacceptably high levels of PFC contaminants in the drinking water supply of Newburgh, New York. Subsequent NYSDEC testing found that the contamination was likely caused by the release of aqueous-forming foam (AFFF) from Stewart ANGB. As you may be aware, USAF is not statutorily prohibited from considering environmental sampling collected by states to evaluate the range of federal actions that may be warranted under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program.

To date, the NYSDEC has spent nearly $100M of its own resources on containment of the waste, including the interim remedial measures necessary to ensure the safety of Newburgh’s drinking supply. Meanwhile, USAF has searched for ways to evade responsibility for the spillage and has failed to intervene in a substantive or timely enough fashion. While I can appreciate the USAF’s willingness to conduct a site investigation, I urge you to use existing NYSDEC sampling in order to complete a Work Plan in a timely manner.

USAF’s failure to fully participate in the containment and clean-up of this waste is unacceptable, an unnecessary impediment to full remediation, and places the undue financial burden of clean-up on taxpayers who are not responsible for this toxic contamination of their drinking supply. New York State cannot continue to exhaust its resources on a contamination issue for which the federal government is equally responsible and I urge you to immediately intervene for the benefit of the impacted communities. 

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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