NEWBURGH—Sen. Charles Schumer toured the tainted Washington Lake area on Aug. 9 and announced legislation to require the Air Force to pay for a water contamination cleanup if found responsible.
As a PFOS-contaminated water crisis continues to plague Newburgh, the legislation would require the Air Force to immediately conduct tests to determine the extent of possible ground water contamination in and around the City of Newburgh.
Washington Lake in Newburgh on Aug. 9, 2016 as
If found culpable, the Air Force would pay for the cleanup and release an expedited timeline to mitigate the contamination.
He was joined by County Executive Steven Neuhaus and Michael Ciaravino, city manager of the City of Newburgh. The perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) contamination is believed to have originated at Stewart Air National Guard base. PFOS has been used in fire-fighting sprays at airports. It is believed to cause a number of health problems, including cancer.
Air Force to Foot Bill
The legislation to be introduced would require three actions from the Air Force. The military would conduct tests to determine the extent of groundwater contamination, would foot the bill for cleanup if found responsible, and would produce an expedited timeline to ensure the water supply is free of contamination.
Referring to fire extinguishers that use foam without PFOS, Neuhaus said that the Air Force, “if they haven’t already, are probably doing as much as they can to switch over.”
Schumer referred to a map of the lake and surrounding area that has been the principal water supply for the city.
“City of Newburgh homeowners and residents need answers and action from the Air Force regarding this PFOS contamination—and they need it fast,” Schumer said.
“Signs clearly point to the operations at the Stewart Air National Guard Base as the source of this pollution,” he said, “so the Air Force needs to immediately conduct tests to determine the extent of this contamination.”
Schumer said if Congress passes the legislation by Oct. 1, the Air Force should finish their inspection by the first of the new year.
Recent reports of environmental tests revealed elevated levels of PFOS in ponds near Stewart Air National Guard Base. Schumer said these ponds near the base eventually drain into Washington Lake.
Before the U.S. Senate went into summer recess, Schumer introduced an amendment, which was not accepted, to the National Defense Authorization Act to require the Department of Defense to investigate the extent of ground water contamination in Newburgh.
Last month the senator wrote to Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, director of the Air National Guard, to set up a timeline to identify and clean up all PFOS pollution. “Only crystal-clear water and crystal-clear answers will do,” Schumer said.
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