U.S. Senator Charles Schumer called on the Director of the Air National Guard on July 20 to immediately release an expedited timeline for the identification and cleanup of any and all PFOS pollution. Toxic PFOS, possibly from Stewart Air Base, has contaminated the City of Newburgh’s drinking water supply.
PFOS—perfluorooctanesulfonic acid—is a persistent environmental toxin believed to be responsible for a wide range of health problems, including cancer. Used in the fire-suppressing foam that military bases use to train soldiers in putting out plane fires, PFOS contamination has been found near other air bases.
In his letter to Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, director of the Air National Guard, Schumer said the Air National Guard committed to releasing a timeline and to award a contract for an interim site investigation. They have yet to deliver on that promise.
“The toxicity of PFOS and the justified worry it has caused in Newburgh means that business as usual is not good enough; the Air National Guard owes the people of Newburgh an expedited timeline and schedule. And waiting until the fall of this year is simply unacceptable,” Schumer wrote.
Schumer’s letter was preceded by a letter from Col. Keith MacDonald, director of logistics and installations for the Air Force, to Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy, in which he wrote of the Air Force’s possible responsibility for contaminated water in the City of Newburgh. The letter, obtained by the Mid-Hudson News, stated that the Air Force must first receive a report from the state Department of Environmental Conservation of what sampling it has done to measure a possible release of PFOS from the base.
MacDonald also wrote that the Air Force intends to let a contract by the end of July for sampling of soil and groundwater at 17 release points. That work, McDonald wrote, is expected to begin in September.
“If we confirm a release has occurred from Stewart ANGB [Air National Guard base], the ANG will work with the City of Newburgh and local, state and federal officials to determine the optimal mitigation actions,” MacDonald wrote.
It was revealed on May 2 that Silver Stream and Washington Lake in the City of Newburgh were found to contain PFOS. Washington Lake had been Newburgh’s primary source of water, and it began purchasing water from the New York City Catskill aqueduct.
Following the discovery of PFOS in Newburgh, Schumer, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately provide testing and planning assistance to Newburgh.
In his July 20 letter, Schumer told the Air National Guard that mitigating the situation cannot be handled as business as usual. “The potential human toxicity of this chemical, the fear and uncertainty that its presence spreads and its presence in a vital drinking water source strongly argues for an expedited approach to source identification and clean-up.”
“I understand that there is a standard process, and rules concerning bids,” he said, “but in this case, business as usual is just not good enough.”
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