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For Release: Thursday, January 26, 2017

New York State DEC and DOH Announce Funding of Private Well Hookups to Ensure Clean Water for Residents Near Lake Washington in Towns of New Windsor and Newburgh

New York State will cover $700,000 cost of well hookups and work to recover costs from U.S. Department of Defense through Superfund Program

The Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Health (DOH) announced additional actions to safeguard drinking water quality in the towns of New Windsor and Newburgh by Governor Cuomo's Water Quality Rapid Response Team, including the commitment to fund the connection of 20 additional private residential wells to municipal water systems.

DOH has been collecting samples of private drinking water wells in areas near Lake Washington that are potentially impacted by PFOA and PFOS contamination. Of 51 private wells sampled to date, 26 wells had low-level detections of PFOA and PFOS; no samples were above the United States EPA's health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS of 70 parts per trillion.

Given the close proximity of these wells to the contamination at Stewart Air National Guard Base - which was recently declared a State Superfund site - the State will reimburse the two towns for costs associated with connecting homes with private wells impacted by PFOA and PFOS contamination to the municipal water supply system. This new effort will involve 20 wells and builds on the State's previous commitment to fund municipal water supply hook ups for six other private wells in the towns of New Windsor and Newburgh.

"We continue to work aggressively to safeguard drinking water quality in communities across New York State, while holding those responsible for contamination accountable for their actions," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "The Water Quality Rapid Response team is taking decisive action in the towns of New Windsor and Newburgh, and these new private well hookups will ensure that residents have access to a clean water supply."

"This announcement demonstrates yet another commitment by state's Water Quality Rapid Response Team to aggressively address water quality issues and ensure clean drinking water for every community in New York," said Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "In New Windsor and Newburgh, we have moved quickly to investigate and identify the contamination, and fund the cost of connecting any affected private wells to a clean, reliable municipal water system."

DEC and DOH continue to work closely with the towns and Orange County to ensure local residents are fully informed and are quickly connected to the municipal water supply. The estimated cost of running water main extensions and completing hookups is approximately $700,000. The construction work is being undertaken by the towns and is expected to be complete in spring 2017.

This effort is the latest action in the continuing aggressive response to the water quality situation in the Newburgh area.

New York was the first state in the nation to list PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances, in April 2016, imposing strict registration, storage, use, disposal, and reporting requirements.

After the State's review of the EPA's Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule data, DEC and DOH began an investigation into possible PFOA and PFOS contamination at larger public water supplies. The City of Newburgh water supply at Lake Washington was identified as a site with possible contamination. New York State quickly:

  • Immediately launched a multi-agency effort to transition residents to a clean, alternative drinking water supply, Brown's Pond, in early May, and to the Catskill Aqueduct in early June.
  • Began and continue to fund all Catskill Aqueduct water payments to ensure clean water for all affected residents.
  • Funded and started to construct a granular activated carbon system at the City of Newburgh water plant to remove PFOS from Lake Washington water. The system will be completed by fall 2017.
  • Funded and constructed upgrades to the Catskill Aqueduct connection at the City of Newburgh's alternate water source pump station that were completed in January 2017.
  • Launched an ongoing initiative to sample private wells in the Lake Washington area near the Town of New Windsor and Town of Newburgh border.
  • Lowered the water level in Lake Washington-by pumping, filtering, and discharging clean water into the watershed-in order to ensure the integrity of the dam.
  • Investigated the nature and extent of contamination resulting from the use of PFOS-containing foam use at Stewart Air National Guard base and the Stewart International Airport and in potentially affected areas of the Lake Washington, Silver Stream, Beaver Dam Lake and Moodna Creek watersheds.
  • Initiated sampling of private wells in the vicinity of Beaver Dam Lake potentially affected by PFOS contamination.
  • Launched a fish sampling program to better understand the effects of contamination in the watershed.
  • Began an updated source water assessment for the Lake Washington watershed.

DEC's investigation identified Stewart Air National Guard Base as a significant contributor of PFOS contamination to the Lake Washington watershed. DEC, in consultation with DOH, listed Stewart Air National Guard Base as a State Superfund site in August 2016 to hold the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for full site clean-up and to recover State resources expended on the response. Through the State Superfund program, DEC will oversee DOD, the party responsible for the management and operation of Stewart Air National Guard Base, in the development of site investigation and remediation plans to address contamination in the Lake Washington watershed.

State Senator William Larkin said, "I have been in constant communication with DEC and local officials to ensure proper attention and resources are made available for our community. I am pleased to hear that homeowners in the towns of Newburgh and New Windsor that have been negatively affected by the recent PFOS contamination will be receiving reimbursement payments for necessary infrastructure improvements. I will continue to work together with all parties involved to ensure that water quality and the overall public health of my constituents is protected."

"Everyone deserves access to clean drinking water, period," said Assemblyman James Skoufis. "When an issue arises, we have a responsibility to take whatever actions are necessary to protect the health and safety of our residents. After working with stakeholders like the DEC, I am very pleased the state is stepping up to pay for these municipal water connections."

"I continue to be impressed by the swift and thorough response New York State has taken to overcome possible health risks caused by contaminated water emanating from near the Stewart Air National Guard Base. This latest announcement, to fund private well hookups, demonstrates the state's flexibility and commitment to provide safe and clean drinking water to all of our residents in the impacted area," said Assemblyman Frank Skartados.

The Governor's Water Quality Rapid Response Team is co-chaired by DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos and DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, and includes the Secretary of State and the commissioners of Agriculture and Markets, Office of General Services, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and Homes and Community Renewal, the Chair of the Public Service Commission, the President of the Empire State Development Corporation, and the President and CEO of the Environmental Facilities Corporation.

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