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Schumer: I Made it Crystal Clear to USAF Nominee Wilson That the USAF Must Maintain Full Responsibility for the Swift Remediation of Toxic PFOS Mess at Stewart AFB and in Newburgh’s Water Supply

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer yesterday directed U.S. Air Force Secretary Nominee Heather Wilson to prioritize the prompt clean-up of the toxic PFOA water contamination caused by the USAF at Stewart Air National Guard Base in New Windsor, NY. Schumer demanded Wilson pledge that, under her leadership, the Air Force will promptly implement the full remediation of the contamination, compensate the impacted local communities, and take responsibility for any interim remedial measures with all due speed.

“Over the last couple of months, I’ve heard from hardworking families in Newburgh who are demanding action from the U.S. Air Force, specifically, to pay for all damages causes by the DOD at Stewart Air National Guard Base. My message to Ms. Wilson yesterday was very clear: commit to a full and speedy remediation effort and compensate local communities whose water supply has been tainted. Families in the City of Newburgh are tired of the games, they want swift action, and so far the Air Force has exhausted more resources trying to get out of taking responsibility than finding ways to contain, remediate and prevent the PFOA-tainted water from spreading further into Newburgh’s water supply. I made it clear that I am carefully reviewing this nomination and that this issue is fundamentally important to me.”

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 slammed the Department of Defense for attempting 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 Recreation Pond and Washington Lake to its draft remediation work plan in order to ensure that the DOD addresses the entire scope of contamination.

Previously, Schumer called for a full investigation into the PFOS contamination. Last year, Schumer introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require the Department of Defense (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. 

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 called on the DOD to look into the extent of possible ground water contamination in the City of Newburgh.