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Calls Continue For Blood Testing In Newburgh For PFOS

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After the public learned in May of PFOS contamination in Newburgh’s main drinking water supply, there were calls to provide blood testing for residents. Those calls continue. In addition, the state continues to investigate sources of contamination while prepping a new filtration system.

Newburgh City Manager Michael Ciaravino in July penned a letter to the New York state Department of Health commissioner, saying residents had been asking city council members whether the state or city would provide blood testing and health assessments for exposure to PFOS. Ciaravino also offered space in the city for a testing program along with other assistance. The public learned of the PFOS contamination in early May after testing in Silver Stream and Washington Lake, the main source of drinking water for Newburgh, revealed the contamination. The city now draws water from the Catskill Aqueduct. Genie Abrams is a Newburgh City Council member.

“In our work session that we had last night, we all agreed, unanimously, that we are totally behind the city manager in calling for testing, blood testing, for PFOS for our citizens here, our residents in Newburgh,” Abrams says. “It’s their health and welfare that we’re dealing with so we’re all totally behind the city manager and hoping that we will be able to get the  state to agree to test our citizens for this contaminant.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was asked recently by reporters why there has been no blood testing of Newburgh residents. Audio is courtesy Time Warner Cable News.

“I don’t know. I haven’t heard that they were asking for it…” Cuomo said.

“Do you think that’s something that should happen, that they should be tested?” reporter asks.

“You need to know the facts,” said Cuomo.

He added:

“If the facts justify it, I’m sure we’ll do it,” Cuomo says.

A state Department of Health spokesman said in a statement, in part, “We will continue to work aggressively to support the residents and we are actively engaged with our federal partners, including the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, to find solutions that provide the tools the community needs to better understand possible exposure to PFOS.”

Democratic Assemblyman Frank Skartados has been advocating for blood testing for Newburgh residents.

“I’ve sent a letter to the governor and I have always advocated that those who want to have a blood test must have that blood test for free,” Skartados says. “And so it was about a week ago when I actually sent him a letter once again reconfirming my beliefs, and I hope that the governor will agree with me because it happened somewhere else so we should do the same here.”

That somewhere else includes Hoosick Falls, where the state Health Department was returning blood testing results in June for residents affected by PFOA contamination in the drinking water. PFOA is a sister chemical to PFOS. Also in June, at a forum in Newburgh, federal, state and local officials briefed residents on developments concerning the PFOS contamination issue. It was then that Newburgh City Councilman Torrance Harvey said he had been fielding calls from residents about blood testing.

“When are we going to get the people tested for free? When, where and how?” asked Harvey.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Environmental Conservation continues to investigate sources of contamination, and DEC Region 3 Director Martin Brand says the agency is closer to homing in on where to focus a full remedial investigation study. He says more than 100 locations overall have been sampled.

“All of this is still strongly pointing to the primary source as being the Air National Guard base and some areas on the airport,” Brand says.

At the June forum, he said the Air National Guard Base and perhaps the commercial side of Stewart International Airport were contributing some of the contamination to the watershed and drinking water supply, and the focus there continues today.

“The retention ponds are still a focus of our work.," Brand says. "The stormwater system at the airport and the Air National Guard base is a focus and some of the areas, the discreet areas actually on the base and the airport where firefighting or fire training activities occurred that used the materials that contained the PFOS, they remain a focus and I’m sure that they will be a focus for any remedial actions that happen here in the near future.”

Brand says the state will fund the installation of a permanent carbon filtration system for which the design is progressing. He expects the system will be up and running by October 2017. In addition, Brand notes that there is work to harden the hookup to the current source of drinking water — the Catskill Aqueduct — before winter. And the state is funding that Aqueduct hookup.  

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