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Hudson Valley News

Maloney Introduces Two Bills In Response To PFOS Contamination

New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney has introduced two pieces of legislation in response to the PFOS water contamination in Newburgh. The bills come shortly after the state Department of Health announced a PFOS blood-testing program for Newburgh.

The Democratic congressman Tuesday stood by Washington Lake in Newburgh, the city’s former main drinking water supply that is contaminated with PFOS, and announced his Investing in Testing Act.

“So we don’t know right now exactly what the safe levels in human blood are of these types of contaminants. We know they’re not good but the Centers for Disease Control needs to immediately study this issue and to understand it better,” Maloney says. “So my legislation would set aside $15 million for a two-year study by the Center for Disease Control to understand better what the safe level of PFOAs and PFOSs are in human blood.”

The state Department of Health, during a public forum on PFOS contamination in Newburgh in September, formally announced a biomonitoring program for the city for which residents have been signing up. Again, Maloney.

“We don’t know whether there are going to be serious health effects or not. We don’t have any reason to believe there will be and we are hopeful that we won’t see any adverse health effects by city residents,” Maloney says. “But we’re not going to happy talk it and we’re not going to make the mistake they made in Flint where people were telling people the water was safe when it wasn’t.”

Newburgh City Manager Michael Ciaravino notes details of the blood testing program are still being worked out.

“At the end of the day, what are residents are asking for is to be tested. They want the question marks that are starting to haunt them over the last couple of decades answered. Do we have a cancer-causing substance in our bodies and, if so, what can we do to develop some type of treatment modalities or long-term studies,” Ciaravino says. “We are aware that as the City of Newburgh goes so does the nation with regard to PFOS science. And so it’s important for us in the very first chapter of testing, health monitoring, to get the science right. And the City of Newburgh is going to be a part of that foundation of studies.”

Ciaravino says Maloney’s move to fund a CDC study is important.

“And so what we’re looking forward to is taking all this work from Congressman Maloney’s office, from the state, from various state agencies, the county and the city and aligning them in a way that makes sense so we can mobilize this quickly, begin the testing, begin the education of our medical community,” says Ciaravino. “Many of the physicians in the area aren’t even aware of how you even measure, let alone treat, PFOS.”

The CDC did not respond to a request for comment. Maloney also has introduced a companion bill to an amendment from U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The New York Democrat in September introduced an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to expand water testing for unregulated drinking water contaminants to all public water supplies. Currently, the EPA is required to test for unregulated contaminants in water systems serving more than 10,000 people. Here’s Maloney.

“What I want to make sure is that we understand this problem nationally,” Maloney says. “So working with Senator Gillibrand, I’m introducing in the House a piece of legislation that would require the EPA to test all communities for the presence of PFOAs and PFOSs in their drinking water.”

Maloney represents the 18th District, and Newburgh has more than 30,000 residents.

“I represent a lot of communities under 10,000 people,” Maloney says. “Their health and safety isn’t any less important than the people in big cities.”

An EPA spokesperson did not respond in time for this broadcast. Again, Maloney.

“There are going to be lots of communities around the country that are dealing with this. This is an emerging environmental issue,” says Maloney. “And the EPA has to have a greater mandate to test for this. We have to have better science on this. And we have to take it seriously and do it in time to do ourselves some good.”

New York in August declared Stewart Air National Guard Base a state Superfund site, with historic use of firefighting foam the likely cause of the contamination. Newburgh now draws water from the Catskill Aqueduct for which the state is picking up the tab. The state also will fund the installation of a permanent carbon filtration system, expected to be up and running by October 2017.  

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