After more than a year of calls to take action on the contamination of the region’s drinking water supply, the U.S. Department of Defense has begun taking water samples in and around Stewart Air National Guard Base, including the polluted Recreation Pond.
“Until now, the DoD has spent more time and energy trying to circumvent liability than it has honoring its responsibility to taxpayers, public health and innocent families,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer in a statement last week.
The sampling is being carried out almost a year and a half after a state of emergency was declared due to perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) contamination of the City of Newburgh’s drinking-water reservoir at Washington Lake.
Tests, conducted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation last summer, revealed that the source of the contamination was Stewart Air National Guard Base. Located at Stewart International Airport, the air base has been the site of large releases of PFOS-containing fire foam due to fires, leaks and training drills.
The air base was declared a state Superfund site by the DEC in August last year.
However, the DoD has refused to accept test results from the state, instead insisting it perform its own sampling at the air base. In the meantime, Recreation Pond, a storm-water retention pond located next to the air base, continues to spew PFOS-contaminated water into the city’s drinking watershed.
State samples from the pond last year showed it contained 5,900 parts per trillion of PFOS, almost 85 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory limit of 70.)
Beaver Dam Lake, Silver Stream, and public and private wells in the towns of New Windsor and Newburgh were also found to be contaminated with PFOS. The state is in the process of assisting the towns to connect private wells to town water supplies.
New Windsor’s Kroll Well was shut down due to low levels of PFOS at the beginning of the year and remains closed. “It’s about time,” said New Windsor Town Supervisor George Green regarding the DoD testing on Monday.
To date, the DEC has spent almost $24 million on work related to the water crisis. The agency states it is “contractually obligated to spend an additional $26 million” to address PFOS contamination of the watershed.
“While this is a big step forward to bring some relief to Newburgh, the DoD must thoroughly test and completely clean up the full PFOS mess they created in this community,” Schumer said. “And, further, the local communities must not be on the financial hook for this testing and remediation process.”
Last month, Schumer announced provisions to the National Defense Authorization Act, authorizing $20 million in funding to pay for the U.S. Air Force to remediate PFOS and PFOA contamination at the air base.
PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), both perfluorinated chemicals, have been linked to certain cancers, high cholesterol and fetal-development problems.
By SHANTAL RILEY