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 was due to be running in the fall of 2017 (Dunne, 2016).

“The City’s new 1.2M-gallon above-ground contact tank was put into service on February 17, 2017 allowing for the demolition of the former 1.0M-gallon clear well, and start of the GAC treatment system construction. Construction of the GAC treatment system has progressed rapidly. Eighteen 40,000-pound carbon vessels were delivered to the site and set in the new GAC treatment building by mid-July 2017 and the building was completed by mid-October. Work is in the final stages on piping, electrical, mechanical, control systems and auxiliary systems, many of which are completed. The GAC system shake-down period began January 5, 2018 using Catskill Aqueduct water to break-in the carbon vessels and refine operating procedures; flushing and break-in is anticipated to continue through the end of February.” (NY DEC)newburgh

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.

PFOS at Stewart Air National Guard Base

Soil: 0 – 5,620 ppt

Groundwater Monitoring Wells: 0 – 3,160 ppt

Surface Water: 60 – 5,900 ppt

Lake Washington: 243 ppt

Silver Stream: 0 – 12 ppt

Additional Resources

Media Coverage:

Full citations are available on the second page of the full contamination site tracker. We ask for your additions, changes, questions and comments be sent to pfasproject@gmail.com.

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