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U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today released the following statement after the administration threatened to veto the must-pass House NDAA over its inclusion of provisions to protect drinking water from the toxic carcinogen PFAS:

“The administration’s promise to veto the must-pass House defense authorization bill, that includes countless provisions to fund our military, because it has vital protections against toxic PFAS contamination in our drinking water that go ‘too far’ is ill-informed and irresponsible. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in communities like Newburgh, Hoosick Falls, and Suffolk County have been plagued by carcinogenic PFAS contamination for years. Everyone deserves clean drinking water and these provisions must be signed into law, and quickly, because there’s no more time to waste.”

“This is breathtakingly cynical and hypocritical. Didn’t the administration just say its top priority is to have ‘the cleanest drinking water on the planet’?” said Senator Schumer. “And the first policy action they propose is to block legislation that funds our military – specifically because it has provisions to protect children, families and seniors from toxic PFAS contamination of their drinking water. It boggles the mind and boils the blood. We need to pass the NDAA, with the protections from toxic PFAS contamination ASAP – especially because a number of military installations are directly responsible for the toxic contamination of nearby drinking water sources.”

Schumer explained that almost three years ago, it was discovered that the City of Newburgh’s drinking source, Washington Lake, near the Stewart Air National Guard Base in New Windsor, had been dangerously contaminated by PFOA/PFOS. Schumer explained that the base’s use of firefighting foam caused carcinogenic PFOA/PFOS pollution of Lake Washington and its tributaries, the predominant source of drinking water for the City of Newburgh.

Schumer has long fought to address toxic chemical PFOA/PFOS contamination in New Windsor, impacting Newburgh’s drinking water. In December of last year, Schumer received 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 May secured a $2 million grant from the DOD for a filtration system on Recreation Pond. 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. Schumer also successfully worked to include his 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 Schumer’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 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.

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are two types of per- and 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.