The New York state Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health have released preliminary results of ongoing studies to assess PFC contamination in fish in both the Newburgh area and the Hoosick Falls region. As a result, they are issuing several fish advisories.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos released the results at a press conference in Newburgh, where officials have been grappling with PFOS water contamination since mid-2016.
“And what we found is that the levels of PFOS in fish in several of these waterways, seven of the eight waterways we looked at, are high enough that a ‘catch and release’ advisory should be in place for all seven waterways,” Seggos says.
He says signs in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole were going up Monday for Washington Lake, Silver Stream, Recreation Pond, Moodna Creek, Beaver Dam Lake, Lockwood Basin, and a stream from Stewart State Forest to Beaver Dam Lake, all places used for recreational fishing.
“There is no federal standard, per se, on what is an acceptable level of PFOS in fish. So we looked to other states. There are several states that do this. Michigan, Minnesota, Alabama, Wisconsin have fish consumption advisories in effect for PFOS,” Seggos says. “So we looked at those standards and some of our internal science and, while all of this is very preliminary, we thought it appropriate to use those standards here in New York and apply this fish consumption advisory.”
The agencies also issued a "catch and release" advisory for Thayers Pond in the Hoosick Falls area, the only advisory for Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh in Rensselaer County, where PFOA is the contaminant of concern. State Health Department Deputy Commissioner for the Office of Public Health Brad Hutton says elevated levels of PFOS prompted the Thayers Pond advisory.
“We tested other water bodies in the Hoosick region that did not have elevated levels of PFOA or PFOS in fish,” Hutton says. “I think what we’re learning through our sampling is that PFOS accumulates in fish and PFOA does not.”
And he speaks to why PFOS is showing up in fish there.
“We’re exploring whether there’s a potential other additional source there that’s different from the responsible parties that we already know of that are largely responsible for the PFOA contamination,” says Hutton. “There is a landfill nearby Thayers Pond that’s a potential source, but I think that investigation’s continuing.”
Sampling at each site included one or more sportfish species, as well as a minnow species to evaluate impacts to the ecological food chain. Seggos says DEC will upgrade the state’s Hale Creek Analytical Laboratory in Gloversville to test for PFCs and more quickly process samples.
Meanwhile, Hutton says the state Health Department’s blood-testing program for Newburgh continues.
“We have extended our contracts with the four local collection sites through the end of August. To date, 5,000 people have expressed an interest and called the hotline and received a physician referral that they can then take to any of the collection sites that’s most convenient for them and have their blood tested,” says Hutton. “To date, 2,200 residents have been tested of that group and they’ve pretty much all received results. We’re now issuing results on a rolling basis.”
And the results, he says, have remained around the same and above the national average of about five.
“The levels, on average, are about 18, which is above the current national average but really similar to what the national average was back in 1999 before industry stopped manufacturing, including PFOS in manufacturing products,” Hutton says.
Newburgh City Manager Michael Ciaravino would like to see more outreach.
“We would like for the Department of Health to help us do notifications, increase notifications. We have done a tremendous marketing effort thus far, to their credit. The question now is of what percentage of the population that drank the water has been notified and has been given the opportunity to be tested,” Ciaravino says. “A tremendous amount of testing has occurred but we respectfully suggest that it’s only the beginning. We need notifications, we need studies, and then we need treatment for this very serious, evolving scientific story,”
Hutton says the Newburgh area blood-testing program is one of the largest testing efforts nationally. In a statement, Water & Natural Resources Associate with Environmental Advocates of New York Liz Moran commended the state’s ongoing PFC fish studies. However, she says the health department needs to follow through in both the Newburgh and Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh areas with bio- and medical monitoring for every person affected by PFOA and PFOS.
Seggos and Hutton were at the press conference with Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who announced legislative action he is taking to ensure the Department of Defense pays for the remediation of PFOS contamination at Stewart Air National Guard Base and halts PFOS-laden discharges from the base into area water bodies, including the city’s main drinking water source, Washington Lake. They stood in front of the construction site for a permanent carbon filtration system for the lake. Newburgh now draws water from the Catskill Aqueduct.