It’s official. The city’s new water filtration plant is operational after more than a year of construction at the treatment facility on Little Britain Road.
“We are proud to announce that the City of Newburgh is officially producing water through its brand-new, state-of-the-art water treatment plant,” the City Manager’s Office said in a statement last week. “We have the potential for some of the best drinking water, if not in the state, then in the nation,” City Manager Michael Ciaravino said at Newburgh City Hall on Monday.
The plant’s granular-activated carbon filtration system is designed not only to filter out perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and related chemicals, but also to prevent endocrine disrupters – which can wreak havoc on the body’s hormonal functions – from entering into the city’s water supply, Ciaravino said.
“It’s a very robust system,” said Martin Brand, deputy commissioner for remediation at the state Department of Environmental Conservation, speaking before the city council. Brand said the plant is capable of producing gallons of clean water per day. “We designed this system to treat the contaminants of concerns in Lake Washington, compounds associated with fire-fighting foams and contamination coming from the Stewart Air National Guard Base,” he said.
PFOS and a host of perfluorinated chemicals were discovered in high levels at the air base in 2016. State testing revealed the chemical traveled from the air base and into local water bodies, eventually making its way into Washington Lake, the city’s main drinking-water reservoir. PFOS was found in the lake ranging in levels of 140 to 170 parts per trillion in the spring of 2016.
With assistance from the state, the city switched to the Catskill Aqueduct as a water source. In addition to paying for the water, the state paid to build the new water treatment plant, capable of filtering out any perfluorinated chemicals still leeching from the airbase. “This system can handle anything that comes down that watershed,” Brand said, “We (have) a high level of confidence this system will treat this water to non-detect standards.”
The state will test the water at the treatment plant later this month, Brand said, to gauge its ability to treat water from Washington Lake. The city continues to draw on Catskill Aqueduct water. However, it is expected to switch back to the lake water in the coming weeks.
“We’re still getting the same pollution from Stewart,” said Councilman Jonathan Jacobson, pointing out the fact that the U.S. Department of Defense has not taken steps to treat the still-polluted air base, which continues to deliver PFOS into the city drinking watershed. “We have to hold the DoD liable. We should not hook up to Washington Lake,” Jacobson said. “Why aren’t we suing?” asked city resident Rich Fracasse.
“There is quite a bit of work that needs to be done,” said Brand, and the state has already conducted tests with the idea of designing a system that could eventually treat Recreation Pond, the chief source of PFOS still coming from the air base. “You deserve to have clean water,” Brand asserted, speaking directly to city residents Monday. “We’re not going anywhere.”
According to the DEC, the city is on schedule to switch back to Washington Lake water at the end of the month or possibly sometime in February. The state will host another public information session on the Newburgh water crisis later this month. A date is yet to be announced.
By SHANTAL RILEY