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For Release: Monday, June 20, 2016

New York State Outlines Ongoing and Aggressive Actions to Address Water Contamination in Newburgh

State Will Finance New Water Filtration System for City of Newburgh to Address Contamination Found in Water Supply

State to Pay for Interim Clean Water Supply from the Catskill Aqueduct
Investigation into Sources of Contamination Continues

New York State today announced a series of ongoing actions to assist the City of Newburgh in responding to water contamination after testing confirmed the presence of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) in the city's public water supply. The contamination was first detected and reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2014 as part of an EPA unregulated contaminant monitoring program.

As part of the ongoing actions of Governor Andrew Cuomo's Water Quality Rapid Response Team, the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Health (DOH) have been working with City and County officials since March to address the impacts of the contamination and launch a comprehensive investigation into the source of the pollution. The State's recent actions include the following commitment:

  • The State will fully fund the design and construction of a permanent Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) system to filter PFOS out of the City of Newburgh's public water supply that will be operational by October 2017;
  • The State will provide funding for the City to obtain clean water from the Catskill Aqueduct while the new filtration system is designed and constructed; and
  • The State is expanding its ongoing investigation into sources of contamination impacting Lake Washington, the City's primary water supply source, to identify the potential causes of pollution that will drive remediation efforts.

"Through Governor Cuomo's leadership in creating the state's Water Quality Rapid Response Team, DEC has worked quickly to assist the City of Newburgh in addressing this water contamination and ensure residents have access to clean water," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "As our investigation continues to identify the sources and extent of the contamination, the interim measures announced today provide the community with a strong reassurance that we are working hard to protect their water supply and hold those responsible for this contamination accountable."

"Together with the Governor and our partners at DEC, the Department of Health is committed to protecting Newburgh's water supply as well as others across the state, so New Yorkers always have access to clean, high quality drinking water," said Howard Zucker, Commissioner of Department of Health.

As part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 3), Newburgh and other water suppliers of over 10,000 people were required to test for several potential contaminants, including PFOS. From December 2013 to October 2014, the City collected four samples which had detections of PFOS ranging between 140 and 170 ppt and reported these results to EPA. Although all samples were below the EPA's provisional short-term health advisory of 200 ppt in place until recently, the State engaged the City and DOH conducted sampling of Newburgh's water system and confirmed the presence of PFOS in March 2016. In May 2016, EPA set the new advisory level of 70 ppt.

Funding for New Water Filtration System

The State announced today that it will fully fund the design and installation of a permanent water filtration system for Lake Washington to remove PFOS from the drinking water. The State has hired ARCADIS to design and construct the new Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) filtration system, which is expected to be complete by October 2017 and the design will be approved by DOH. GAC is effective at removing PFOS and other perflourinated chemicals (PFCs) from drinking water.

Secured Clean Water Supply from Catskill Aqueduct

As an interim step to ensure residents have access to clean drinking water, DEC and DOH assisted the City in transitioning on May 2nd to Brown's Pond water supply, which is non-detect for PFOS, as an interim step to ensure residents have access to clean drinking water. On June 7th, the City began to draw water from the Catskill Aqueduct, and the State has committed to provide funding for the City to cover the costs of this water. Repeated testing has shown the water from the Catskill Aqueduct to be non-detect for PFOS. The State also plans to upgrade pipes, valves and other components of the City's existing connections to Brown's Pond and the Catskill Aqueduct to ensure that Newburgh can more efficiently draw from these backup sources now and in the future.

Investigation Continues

DEC's investigation to determine the full scope and extent of contamination has been underway since mid-March, when DEC began water sampling and site investigations of the Lake Washington watershed. Since March, the state has conducted 10 site visits and undertaken 6 sampling rounds (43 samples), including sampling of surface water, sediment, stormwater outfalls, drainage areas, ponds, and culverts to identify the extent and potential sources of the contamination in order to develop appropriate strategies to remediate the pollution. DEC shared sampling results with the City of Newburgh and has scheduled additional sampling for this week and the coming weeks. DEC is also investigating historic usage and storage of PFOS-containing firefighting foam in the areas around Lake Washington and its tributaries to identify potential sources.

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