New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh today. She was briefed on a few issues including the installation of a temporary filtration system at the base to address water contamination.
Gillibrand, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, says the temporary filtration system was supposed to be up and running this summer. The Army Corps of Engineers was tasked with designing and implementing an interim, remedial measure at outfalls at Stewart Air National Guard Base, at Recreation Pond. It’s the site of some of the highest PFOS concentrations found since the water contamination crisis in Newburgh emerged in the spring of 2016.
“Senator, what did you learn, because this temporary filtration system at Rec Pond that the Army Corps of Engineers was supposed to install was supposed to be up and running already by the summer but there have been contractual issues, from what I understand. So what have you learn and what are you going to do to push this along?” Dunne asks.
“So the briefing that we got today included a timeline of about eight weeks where we should be able to have the filtration system up and running. That is a good start but any time you’re talking about contaminants in water it requires long-term monitoring, it requires testing of wells and testing of different water systems. And so this is going to be a collaboration between the military and the federal government and our state DEC and our local communities,” Gillibrand says. “And so my role is to make sure we get resources brought into the community to make sure they have the funds they need to do a new filtration system and to guarantee clean water but also to urge collaboration between the state regulatory agencies and the federal regulatory agencies.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on behalf of the Air National Guard, had allocated $2.4 million in federal funding to install the filtration system. Gillibrand, again, speaks to the eight-week timeline.
“That’s what I understood, that in the next eight weeks they’re going to be constructing the filtration system,” says Gillibrand. “They’re going to issue a report that people will have access to about the results of their testing and how long they think it will take to clean up.”
In early October, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said bureaucratic red tape was holding up the process. And the Democrat from New York called on the Air Force, Air National Guard and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to immediately expedite the delayed project, starting with the approval of outstanding contracts. Meantime, New York state has recommended maximum contaminant levels, or MCLs, for three drinking water contaminants — 10 parts per trillion each for PFOA and PFOS and 1 part per billion for 1,4-Dioxane. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s advisory level for PFOA and PFOS is 70 parts per trillion each. Again, Gillibrand:
“I hope we can get to a place where there’s no PFOA and PFAS in our water. I would like, and as I’ve said to the director of the EPA, I would like it to be deemed a carcinogen and a contaminant so that there is no use any longer by manufacturers or for fire retardation. So it’s really important that we continue to elevate this issue, demand that the science be documented, demand that we have testing and know that the water that we have access to is safe,” says Gillibrand. “I think it is a carcinogen based on research done globally and I hope that the state can deem it to be illegal and that the federal government can deem it to be illegal.”
Schumer said that after he learned that the Army Corps of Engineers and Port Authority were at an impasse regarding the Right of Entry agreement, which was needed to allow the Army Corps access to Recreation Pond, he helped broker an agreement. However, when he asked for an updated timeline for the installation of the filtration system, Schumer was informed that there were two other approvals further delaying the process.