Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances

The Social Discovery of a Class of Emerging Contaminants

Newburgh, New York

Suspected contamination source: Firefighting foam used at Stewart Air National Guard Base (AP, 2016)

In 2014, PFOS was detected in Lake Washington, the city’s drinking water supply, at 170 ppt, below the 400 ppt limit then recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. When the EPA set a new level of 70 ppt for short-term exposure in May 2016, the city manager declared an emergency (AP, 2016). The source of contamination was determined to be PFOS-containing firefighting foam used at Stewart Air National Guard Base for training and emergency purposes. The state stepped in to assist with and fund the city’s hookup to the Catskill Aqueduct for a longer term, temporary water source amid the design and construction of a filtration system, which it also will fund. The filtration system is due to be running in the fall of 2017 (Dunne, 2016).

State officials launched an ambitious effort to offer blood tests to Newburgh’s 28,000 residents in 2016. The State Department of Health’s Director Dr. Nathan Graber later clarified that the free blood testing would not be confined solely to City of Newburgh residents, but anyone who was likely exposed to PFOS.

In response to the water crises in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh, and upon the recommendation of the DOH, the DEC instituted an Emergency Rulemaking officially declaring that PFOS is a hazardous substance. The change in state law, which took effect on April 25, 2016, allows the DEC to regulate the handling and storage of PFOS and it also allows the state to remediate contaminated sites under NY superfund law.

Additional Resources

2016 PFOS Contamination Water Crisis Update – City of Newburgh
PFOS in Drinking Water in Newburgh Area
Newburgh Drinking Water Crisis
Exposure and health survey

Media Coverage:

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