02.21.17

SCHUMER SLAMS AIR FORCE AND AIR NATIONAL GUARD FOR NOT INCLUDING RECREATION POND IN PFOS-CONTAMINATION SURVEY AND CLEAN-UP PLAN; SENATOR SAYS FAILURE TO INCLUDE ALL IMPACTED WATERWAYS IS A “DERELICTION OF DUTY” – DEMANDS IMMEDIATE ATTENTION FROM TOP BRASS

Senator Says Air Force/ANG Must Expand Their Work Plan to Include All Potentially-Impacted and Nearby Off-Post Waterways Like Recreation Pond, That Were Affected By Stewart’s PFOS Contamination

Schumer: Air Force/ANG must create a more comprehensive plan to immediately test and remediate water pollution that continues to plague Newburgh-area 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced a new push to add Recreation Pond and surrounding waterways to the Air National Guard’s recently released pollution survey and cleanup plan. Recreation Pond and other waterways were determined to have elevated levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) by state DEC testing; PFOS and PFOA, a related chemical, is linked to birth defects and certain cancers. The contamination is widely believed by regulators to have originated at Stewart Air National Guard Base as a result of aqueous-forming foam (AFFF) used to fight fires. 

“It is more that highly likely that the contaminated water on post flowed into Recreation Pond, Silver Stream, and Washington Lake, yet the Air National Guard Work Plan, which seeks to remediate the contamination, only covers waterways that are on post, failing to include a plan for the contaminated waterways off post,” said Senator Schumer

“The bottom line is that pollution like PFOS-tainted water does not stop at the base’s perimeter and neither should the Air National Guard’s pollution source survey and clean-up plan. The National Guard must step up to the plate and complete a more detailed survey that includes impacted waterways like Recreation Pond,” continued Senator Schumer. “In its current state, the plan is not comprehensive enough to fully address the breadth of this contamination.  Omitting off post waterways like Recreation Pond and others affected by the StewartPFOS chemical release is not fair to residents nearby, nor is it the most? common-sense way to fully identify the extent of this contamination – which has tainted the drinking water supply – or to remediate it in full. 

“My thanks to Senator Schumer for his support in helping the City for Newburgh to get the Federal government to clean up the source of contamination at the airbase.   They must put a filtration system on the water as it comes out of the collection pond and stop polluting the City of Newburgh’s water source as well as other water ways downstream from the airbase. We expect the Federal Government to be a good neighbor,” said Judy Kennedy, Mayor of The City of Newburgh. 

“We would like to thank Senator Schumer for his continued support as we work to provide City of Newburgh residents with safe, clean drinking water, for now and for generations to come. Senator Schumer has been a leader in calling for the DOD to clean-up the contamination emanating from Rec Pond,” said City Manager, Michael G. Ciaravino 

Riverkeeper thanks Senator Schumer for his leadership in working at the federal level, with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, to fight the terrible damage that's been done to Newburgh's water resources and to force the Department of Defense to stop any further pollution from the Stewart Air National Guard Base. It's been nearly one year since state testing showed that the Air National Guard Base outfalls into Recreation Pond are the biggest continuing source of toxic contamination to Silver Stream, which both feeds the Hudson River and Washington Lake, Newburgh's primary drinking water reservoir. The Department of Defense can stop this pollution and it must do so without further delay,” said Riverkeeper's Water Quality Program Director, Dan Shapley Dan Shapey. 

“I would like to thank Senator Schumer for his continued efforts to remediate the PFOS contamination for the City of Newburgh. This contamination effects the residents of Newburgh as well as the surrounding communities. The contamination is dangerous and his push for the DOD to clean this site is much appreciated.” Said Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus. 

Schumer explained the rates of contamination in Newburgh’s water were well beyond the acceptable 70 parts per trillion limit of human exposure to the related PFOA and PFOS. Testing done by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in March of 2016 showed water supply contamination likely came from the release of aqueous-forming foam (AFFF) from Stewart. The testing also showed one of the outfalls discharging stormwater into Recreation Pond contained 5,900 ppt PFOS, almost 85 times the EPA health advisory limit of 70 ppt. The base was then declared a Superfund site. The Air National Guard completed a site inspection the inspection helped identify 13 potential release locations at the base. They soon presented a work plan to remediate the contamination but the plan did not include waterways like Recreation Pond, which has continued to receive substantial amounts of PFOS from the airport drainage,? or any other off base waterways that were nonetheless contaminated as a direct result of the chemical release at Stewart. 

Schumer has long held the Department of Defense, and the related agencies of the Air Force and the Air National Guard, accountable for Newburgh’s water contamination. Last month, Schumer along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representatives Sean Patrick-Maloney urged U.S. Department of Defense to order the Air National Guard 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.

Previously, Schumer called for a full investigation into the PFOS contamination. Last year, before the U.S. Senate adjourned for congressional recess in July, Schumer introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that required the Department of Defense (DOD) to launch an investigation to determine the extent of possible ground water contamination in the City of Newburgh. However, very few amendments were included in the final version of the NDAA. Undeterred, Schumer vowed to keep fighting for Newburgh and introduced 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. 

In addition to the legislation Schumer introduced, he has made several phone calls and wrote several letters to the Department of Defense. Schumer sent a letter to Lieutenant General L. Scott Rice, director of the Air National Guard to immediately release an expedited timeline for the identification and clean-up of any and all PFOS pollution. In May of 2016 Schumer called on the DOD to look into the extent of possible ground water contamination in the City of Newburgh. Additionally, last spring Schumer lead a delegation letter, calling on the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection (EPA) to immediately provide testing and planning assistance to the City of Newburgh. Most recently Schumer sent a letter to Acting Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Richard K Hartley to add Recreation Pond to the work plan. 

 

A copy of Schumer’s  letter to appears below: 

Richard K. Hartley

Acting Assistant Secretary of the Air Force,

Installations, Environment, and Energy

1670 Air Force Pentagon

Washington, DC 20330

 

Dear Mr. Hartley, 

I write on behalf of thousands of families I represent in Newburgh, New York who have been exposed to contaminated drinking water as a result of PFOS contamination that very likely originated from the Stewart Air National Guard Base. As you know, the contaminated water on post has flowed into Recreation Pond, Silver Stream, and Washington Lake. Recently, the Air National Guard released a Work Plan that identified on-base pollution centers and outlined a plan for remediation on post. However, the Work Plan did not adequately examine the obvious pollution pathways into nearby bodies of water, nor did it include a plan for the contaminated waterways off post, making it markedly insufficient. Therefore, I urge the Air Force, Air National Guard and their managing entity, the DOD, to take immediate action to add Recreation Pond and additional downstream waterways impacted by on-base PFOS pollution runoff to the Work Plan’s survey of pollution locations, as well as articulating a full remediation plan for those water bodies. 

As you know, testing conducted by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in March 2016 showed that the water supply contamination likely came from the release of aqueous-forming foam (AFFF) from Stewart. The base was subsequently declared a state Superfund site and pursuant to this designation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Air National Guard completed a site inspection. While the inspection helped identify 13 potential release locations at the base, it did not include Recreation Pond, or any other waterways that are contaminated as a direct result of the chemical release at Stewart. This must be rectified with all due speed to complete a genuinely comprehensive survey and clean-up Work Plan. 

These families deserve access to clean water and an assurance that the Air Force/ANG/DOD is doing all it can to stop the continuing flow of PFOS-tainted water into the drinking supply. In this light, I urge you to move swiftly and, while further survey and clean-up plans are articulated, to also take interim remedial measures in order to minimize the ongoing environmental and public health impact while a clean-up plan is developed. 

I look forward to your response and to working with you on this important issue. 

Sincerely, 

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate Democratic Leader                

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