Newburgh Lifts State Of Emergency, Taps Into Water Source Without PFOS

May 3, 2016

A state of emergency declared in the city of Newburgh Monday has been lifted after the city switched to a different water supply. Its usual water source is contaminated with PFOS.

Newburgh City Manager Michael Ciaravino declared the state of emergency because of the discovery of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) in Silver Stream and Washington Lake, the main source of drinking water for Newburgh. Mayor Judy Kennedy delivered an update Tuesday.

“As of yesterday, actually at the time the state of emergency was declared, is this is the City of Newburgh has switched its source of drinking from Washington Lake to Brown’s Pond,” says Kennedy. “The water that you now find in the faucet is now perfectly safe to drink. It has no PFOS in it as of now.”

She says water restrictions remain in place given Brown’s Pond is a smaller water source than Washington Lake. Such restrictions include not automatically serving water in restaurants or watering lawns. Kennedy says using Brown’s Pond is a short-term solution while state officials investigate the source of contamination.

“The water that is coming in to Washington Lake through Silver Stream is how the contaminant is getting into the lake,” Kennedy says. “The lake itself is not the source of the problem.”

She adds:

“At no time has the level of PFOS been over the EPA guidelines, which has been 200 parts per trillion,” says Kennedy. “Our measurement has been at 140 parts per trillion.”

Kennedy says the state Department of Health has set up a water quality hotline number, 1-800-801-8092, and that city officials also are working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

In an e-mail, EPA spokesman John Martin says the EPA received a letter from the Newburgh city manager Monday and the EPA has reached out to him for more information. In addition, Martin says that in January 2009, the EPA developed provisional health advisories for short-term exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water and that the EPA is developing lifetime health advisory levels for both, which the agency expects to release in spring 2016.

Meanwhile, Kennedy voiced surprise at the city manager’s imposition of the state of emergency and was asked whether she agreed with his decision.

“I agree with the city manager that we want to make our drinking water as safe as possible. I agree with that,” says Kennedy. “I did not agree with the state of emergency being declared at that moment.”

She said Ciaravino was unavailable for comment as he had a medical emergency. Newburgh resident Ophra Wolf attended Kennedy’s press conference, citing concern about the quality of the drinking water.

“And I personally believe that calling the state of emergency was a very good decision because, for one, it brought the situation to light to me and to many other people,” Wolf says.

Wolf, who worked on Kennedy’s re-election campaign, says for city officials to argue over the process should not play into informing the public about contaminated water.

Newburgh’s water contamination problem comes as other communities in recent months have been found to have water contamination issues, with a sister chemical to PFOS. The public water supply in Hoosick Falls in New York and private wells in North Bennington, Vermont, among others, have been grappling with PFOA contamination.