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Information for Communities Impacted by Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

City of Newburgh, Town of Newburgh and the Town of New Windsor

As part of the federal Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Program, the City of Newburgh and other water suppliers serving over 10,000 people are required to test for several potential contaminants, including Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).

In May 2015, the City of Newburgh issued its 2014 Annual Water Quality Report with PFAS contamination identified in Washington Lake. The City subsequently reported these results to EPA as required. All samples were below the EPA's provisional short-term health advisory that was in place at that time. In February 2016, Governor Cuomo created a Water Quality Rapid Response Team (WQRRT) responsible for investigating contamination across the state. Working with the WQRRT, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the presence of PFAS in March of 2016. Immediately, DEC began to investigate the source of the contamination affecting Newburgh and, with DOH, assisted the City to connect to an alternate water supply.

Identifying the potential threat to its communities, New York State also urged EPA to take vigorous action on the federal level to regulate PFOA and PFOS. In May 2016, the EPA issued a revised health advisory of 70 parts-per-trillion (ppt) for lifetime exposure, by which time the City of Newburgh had already switched to a PFAS-free source of water in coordination with New York State.

What's Being Done

New York State has taken proactive and aggressive actions to address water quality issues in the Newburgh area. To date, the state has:

Filters used at Lake Washington
Filters used for the Lake Washington draw down.
  • Swiftly transitioned the City to a clean, alternative drinking water supply called Brown's Pond in early May 2016 and to New York City's Catskill Aqueduct in early June 2016.

  • Committed to fund all Catskill Aqueduct water payments to NYC and advanced the first $2.4 million payment to the City of Newburgh on September 14, 2016.

  • Committed to fund and constructed a Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) system at the City of Newburgh Lake Filtration Plant to remove PFAS from Washington Lake water.

  • Funded and constructed upgrades to the City of Newburgh's connection to the Catskill Aqueduct. Work completed December 2016.

  • Conducted sampling in potentially affected areas of the Washington Lake, Silver Stream, Beaver Dam Lake and Moodna Creek watersheds, the vicinity of the Stewart International Airport, and Stewart Air National Guard base. These investigations identified Stewart Air National Guard Base as the likely source of PFAS contamination in the area due to the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam.

  • Listed Stewart Air National Guard Base as a state Superfund site in August 2016 to hold the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) responsible for full site clean-up.

  • Sampled private wells potentially impacted by PFAS contamination in the Washington Lake area, portions of the Town of New Windsor and the Town of Newburgh, and in the vicinity of Beaver Dam Lake.

  • Funding provision of bottled water, municipal water supply extension and connections for private residences in the Towns of Newburgh and New Windsor, with wells impacted by PFAS. Also funding and undertaking the installation, maintenance and monitoring of Point of Entry Treatment (POET) systems in the Beaver Dam Lake area.

  • Built and operated a system to draw down Washington Lake - by pumping and filtering lake water and then discharging clean water into Silver Stream - in order to protect the integrity of the Washington Lake dam. The pumping and treatment system processed 150 million gallons of water from September to December 2016 and was operated again from May through July 2017, processing an additional 160 million gallons of water, leaving the Washington Lake dam with four feet of freeboard.

  • Launched a fish sampling program to better understand the extent and impacts of contamination in the watershed.

  • Launched an updated source water assessment planning process for the watershed.

  • Conducted preliminary engineering studies of the stormwater flows from the identified source areas on the Base to provide data for the design of a treatment system for discharges coming from the site.

DEC and DOH will oversee DoD, the party responsible for the management and operation of Stewart Air National Guard Base, in the further development of site investigation and remediation plans to address contamination from the Stewart Air National Guard Base.

Remedial Program

staff conducting surface water sampling
Collecting surface water samples.

Based upon contamination impacting Lake Washington, Newburgh's primary water supply source, and neighboring watersheds, the state initiated investigations into the source of the PFAS. In particular, DEC investigated the historic use and storage of PFAS-containing firefighting foam on the Stewart Air National Guard Base and Stewart International Airport to identify potential sources.

Beginning in March 2016, DEC collected surface water samples from Washington Lake and its tributaries. Since that time, the state has conducted extensive sampling of groundwater, surface water, sediment, storm water outfalls, drainage areas, building floor drains, ponds, and culverts to help identify the extent and potential sources of the contamination and to develop appropriate strategies to remediate the pollution. The results of these investigations are summarized in the figures and reports listed below.

Area of Interest Maps:

Figures Showing Sampling Data:

Tables showing these data points are available in the reports included below.

Time Line of New York State's Activities:

A chronological summary of New York State DEC's, DOH's and the New York State Department of Transportation's (DOT's) response activities in the Newburgh area is provided below:

Work Plans:

Reports:

Please note: the file sizes of the following documents are large and in some cases have been broken up into several parts for download.

Newburgh Drinking Water Supply

The City of Newburgh's primary drinking water supply is Washington Lake, located in the Towns of New Windsor and Newburgh about one-half mile west of the City's water filtration plant, which is also located in these townships. The City has two back-up water supply options: Brown's Pond and the New York City Catskill Aqueduct Tap located in the Town of New Windsor, adjacent to Brown's Pond.

New Water Treatment System

The state is funding and facilitating the design and construction of a permanent Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) treatment system to filter PFAS out of the City of Newburgh's public water supply Washington Lake. DEC in consultation with state DOH and the Orange County Health Department have worked on the design, construction, and startup protocols for this system. On February 9, 2017 four contracts (General, Electrical, Plumbing and HVAC Construction) were executed for the construction of the new GAC treatment system. The City's new 1.2M-gallon above-ground contact tank was put into service on February 17, 2017 allowing for the demolition of the former 1.0M-gallon clear well, and start of the GAC treatment system construction. Construction of the GAC treatment system has progressed rapidly. Eighteen 40,000-pound carbon vessels were delivered to the site and set in the new GAC treatment building by mid-July 2017 and the building was completed by mid-October. Work is in the final stages on piping, electrical, mechanical, control systems and auxiliary systems, many of which are completed. The GAC system shake-down period began January 5, 2018 using Catskill Aqueduct water to break-in the carbon vessels and refine operating procedures; flushing and break-in is anticipated to continue through the end of February.

New York City - Catskill Aqueduct Tap Connection

The The City of Newburgh Water Supply System is currently drawing water from an existing New York City Catskill Aqueduct tap. Construction of a permanent piped connection between the Catskill Aqueduct and the City of Newburgh's pump station was completed and became operational at the end of December 2016. A fill-pipe from the Catskill Aqueduct to Brown's Pond was also installed by DEC in the Spring of 2017 which allows the City of Newburgh to fill Brown's Pond when necessary.

Pumps being used for Lake Washington draw down.
Pumps in operation for Lake Washington draw down activities.

Lake Washington Draw Down

Water levels in Washington Lake rose following the switch of the City of Newburgh's Water Supply from the lake to the Catskill Aqueduct creating a potential threat to the lake's dam and surrounding watersheds. In order to maintain the integrity of the dam structure, the state funded the design and construction of a temporary pumping system to draw down the lake level. A Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) treatment system was used to treat all water pumped from Washington Lake to minimize the potential for release of PFAS-contaminated water to Silver Stream. Water from the lake was pumped through a series of 10-foot diameter vertical tanks containing GAC prior to being discharged to Silver Stream and the surrounding watershed. Operations to draw down the lake began September 20, 2016 and were suspended in early December 2016 when the treatment system had to be shut down and winterized. Operations resumed in May 2017 and continued until the end of July 2017. After achieving the desired safe freeboard at the dam spillway, operations were suspended and the pumps and treatment system were removed in August 2017 followed by restoration of the site.

Private Water Supply Response Actions

Where contaminants are detected in private wells, DEC provided bottled water as an interim measure, and installed point of entry treatment (POET) systems or connections to the municipal water supply as long-term solutions. In the Leary Lane, Coranas Lane and Steele Road areas, an extension of municipal water lines is currently being designed and installed.

Private Well Sampling

DOH has sampled the drinking water wells of a number of homeowners and businesses in the towns of Newburgh, New Windsor and Cornwall which are not connected to a municipal water supply.

Beaver Dam Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District

The Beaver Dam Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District encompasses almost 800 homes, approximately 650 of which utilize private groundwater wells for their drinking water. Surface water samples collected within the watershed upstream of Beaver Dam Lake contained concentrations of PFAS slightly above the EPA Health Advisory Level. Although Beaver Dam Lake surface water is not used as a source of drinking water, private drinking water wells within the area were sampled by DOH. To date, PFAS have not been detected in most private wells in the Beaver Dam Lake area. Where there were detections of PFAS in private drinking water well samples, they occurred at levels significantly below the EPA Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion. Once identified, DEC funded the provision of bottled water and Point of Entry Treatment (POET) systems to impacted residences. DEC is currently monitoring and maintaining the installed POET systems.

Source Areas and Responsible Parties

On August 12, 2016, DEC determined that the Stewart Air National Guard Base is a source of PFAS to the watershed and DEC and DOH listed the base area as a Class 2 State Superfund site, identifying the U.S. Department of Defense as a potentially responsible party for the contamination detected in the area and in the City of Newburgh's public drinking water supply. The primary source area is the Stewart Air National Guard Base - Site No. 336089

Investigations to identify additional potential sources and responsible parties are ongoing.

Contact Information

For questions specific to Newburgh, please contact the DEC Press Office:

For more information, contact the New York State Water Quality Hotline at 1-800-801-8092.

Additional Information

Public meetings were held in the City of Newburgh on June 20, 2016, September 19, 2016, October 25, 2016, and December 5, 2016 to present the findings of the state's investigations, discuss planned actions, and to hear the concerns of the community. An additional meeting was held February 6, 2017 to give an update on Beaver Dam Lake. DEC and DOH have attended City Council meetings on November 27, 2017 and January 8, 2018, and hosted an Availability Session at the City of Newburgh Activities Center on February 5, 2018.

Fish Advisory

DEC and DOH found elevated levels of PFAS, mainly perfluorooctane sulfonate acid (PFOS), in certain fish species, and DOH has issued a "catch and release" advisory for select water bodies to ensure that residents do not consume PFAS-contaminated fish. DOH recommends that anglers practice "catch and release" only from the following waters until further notice:

Area Waterbody

Newburgh Beaver Dam Lake
Lockwood Basin/ Masterson Park Pond
Moodna Creek
Recreation Pond
Silver Stream
Stream from Stewart State Forest to Beaver Dam Lake
Washington Lake

Press Releases