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For Release: Friday, August 12, 2016

DEC Declares Stewart Air National Guard Base a State Superfund Site

State to Hold Department of Defense Responsible for Expedited Clean Up of PFOS Contamination

State Advances Actions to Continue Ensuring Clean Drinking Water for the City of Newburgh

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today determined that Stewart Air National Guard Base in Orange County is a State Superfund site. Through this determination, DEC has identified the U.S. Department of Defense as a potentially responsible party for the perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) contamination detected in the area and in the City of Newburgh's public drinking water supply. DEC will use its full authority under the State Superfund law to ensure expedited site clean-up. Although PFOS remains unregulated at the federal level, DEC added PFOS to the State list of hazardous substances on April 25, 2016, triggering the ability to utilize the State Superfund program.

"Through the ongoing work of Governor Cuomo's Water Quality Rapid Response Team, the state's top priority has been to reduce residents' exposure to PFOS, while investigating the extent of the contamination and holding those responsible accountable," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Our aggressive actions have secured an interim clean drinking water source and upgrades to the City's water infrastructure while a new carbon filtration system is constructed. With today's Superfund announcement, we are now poised to ensure that the Department of Defense develops and finances expedited cleanup plans to address this contamination."

The State's preliminary site investigation has identified portions of Stewart Air National Guard Base as a significant source of the PFOS contamination found in Lake Washington, which had served as the City of Newburgh's primary water supply. Some of the highest concentrations of PFOS detected to date-nearly 5,900 parts per trillion (ppt)-were found in an outfall from the Air National Guard Base that drains into Silver Stream, a primary tributary of Lake Washington. Groundwater samples collected from existing monitoring wells on the Air National Guard Base detected concentrations of up to 3,160 ppt and surface water samples collected from the retention pond on the base detected concentrations of up to 790 ppt. DEC will continue to investigate areas adjacent to the Air National Guard Base property and has identified one portion of Stewart International Airport as a Potential Superfund site.

As part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, the City of 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 and the public. Although all samples were below the EPA's provisional short-term health advisory of 200 ppt in place until recently, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) proactively engaged the City in March 2016 to retest the public water supply and confirmed the presence of PFOS. In May 2016, EPA set the new lifetime drinking water health advisory level of 70 ppt.

As part of the ongoing actions of the Governor's Water Quality Rapid Response Team, both DEC and DOH have been working collaboratively with the City and County to ensure clean drinking water for Newburgh residents. DEC and DOH assisted the City in transitioning to the Brown's Pond water supply on May 2nd and to the New York City Catskill Aqueduct on June 7th, both of which have tested non-detect for PFOS. The State will fully fund the cost of withdrawing water from the Catskill Aqueduct and also plans to upgrade pipes, valves, and other components of 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. Moreover, the State 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. Ultimately, the State will seek reimbursement for these costs from the responsible parties, including the Department of Defense.

Through this Superfund program, DEC will oversee the Department of Defense, which is responsible for the management and operation of Stewart Air National Guard Base, in their expedited development of a comprehensive site investigation and remediation plans to address contamination in the Lake Washington watershed. DEC and DOH will continue to work closely with the City and County as the investigation and remediation plans are developed.

Preliminary data suggest the contamination is the result of the historic use of Class B firefighting foam at Stewart Air National Guard Base. Although phased out in 2002, PFOS has been a key ingredient in the types of firefighting foam used at the base for emergency response and training exercises. The Department of Defense investigation will fully determine the nature and extent of foam use and disposal on the base. In June, DEC mailed surveys to approximately 2,500 businesses, fire departments, airports, and chemical bulk storage facilities across the State to identify facilities where PFOS, or related substance perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), may be or have been used, stored, manufactured, disposed of, or released.

The State Superfund program is an enforcement program that provides the necessary resources for the state to launch investigations into the nature and extent of contamination and hold the parties responsible accountable for the remediation of these sites to be fully protective of public health and the environment. Through the terms of the Superfund program, DEC will ensure these identified as responsible parties pay for full site remediation.

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