Looking ahead to 2017: Newburgh water supply contamination an ongoing crisis
by Leonard Sparks, originally posted on December 31, 2017
NEWBURGH – In January, the first people to have their blood tested will begin receiving results for the presence of the chemical that forced the City of Newburgh to stop drawing water from its primary supply and begin buying from New York City’s Catskill Aqueduct.
Those findings will mark the first watershed moment in an ongoing crisis that began last May, when Newburgh shut down Washington Lake due to levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate.
Known as PFOS, the chemical is linked with kidney and testicular cancers, low birth weight and other health problems. Roughly 3,000 residents in Newburgh and the surrounding towns have requested to be tested.
Traced to the use of PFOS-containing firefighting foam at Stewart Air National Guard Base, Washington Lake’s contamination led to the base being declared a state Superfund site. How the military responds to orders to clean up the contamination will an ongoing story in 2017.
So will the presence of PFOS and a sister chemical in private wells in the Town of New Windsor. Some of the contamination is believed to have entered local waterways after firefighting foam was used to extinguish a FedEx airplane fire at Stewart International Airport in 1996.
The state is also funding a new filtration system for Newburgh. Expected to be up and running by the fall, the system is supposed to be able to eliminate PFOS and allow the city to resume drawing water from Washington Lake.