New Windsor private wells contaminated

by Leonard Sparks, originally posted on October 21, 2016


NEW WINDSOR A dozen private water wells near Stewart Air National Guard Base have tested positive for a class of toxic chemicals that includes the one behind the closure of the City of Newburgh’s primary water supply.

The state Department of Health has so far tested 32 wells in the Town of New Windsor in response to the discovery of perfluorooctane sulfonate in Newburgh’s Washington Lake, and the designation of the air base as the source.

Results show 20 testing negative for the chemicals. But some wells showed between 2 and 44 parts per trillion for perfluorooctane sulfonate, also known as PFOS. Others showed between 2 and 15 ppt for perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

Both PFOS and PFOA are among six perfluorinated chemicals for which wells are being tested by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health.

While the highest levels are below the federal health advisory guideline of 70 ppt, DOH will offer residents with contaminated wells point-of-entry treatment systems and connections to municipal water.

“We’ve been encouraged by some of the results we’ve seen on the private wells – everything below 70 parts per trillion,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said during an interview at the Times Herald-Record in Middletown on Friday.

One-story ranch houses and two-story split-levels sit quietly along both tree-lined sides of Weather Oak Hill Road in New Windsor. But Weather Oak Hill is among the neighborhoods south of Stewart Air Base where the state is testing for PFCs, which have been linked with kidney and testicular cancers, high cholesterol, low infant birth weight and other health problems.

The targeted area encompasses properties on: Little Britain, Liner, Macnary, Riley, Silver Stream, Brown’s Drive, and a section of Union Avenue near where Route 207 and Route 300 intersect.

All are near Stewart Air Base, where the use of firefighting foams containing PFOS is blamed for Newburgh’s contamination. High concentrations of the chemical were found at a retention pond on the base that discharges into Silver Stream.

In August the state designated the base a Superfund site and ordered the Department of Defense to begin a clean-up.

George Kent, who settled into his house on Weather Oak Hill Road 51 years ago, grew concerned as news broke about the contamination at Washington Lake. The lake’s watershed includes streams snaking through New Windsor and the Town of Newburgh.

Inspectors took 14 samples of his well water, Kent said. Within two weeks, he got the results: No PFOS.

“After what I was reading in the paper, I said this is a little scary,” Kent said of the chemical. “Who knows if that’s going to get in the reservoir underneath the earth.”

Karen Byrd was unaware of the PFOS problem until she saw an array of large tanks on Route 300, just north of Route 207.

Those tanks form part of a special system the state set up to drain and filter water from the unused Washington Lake, whose rising waters had raised fears of a dam breach.

Last month sample takers knocked on the door of Byrd’s Silver Stream Road home. They left with containers of well water, which turned out to be PFOS-free.

She never worried, Byrd said. But Edward Nugent did.

For 37 years he and his wife have shared a Cape Cod on Riley Road, less than a mile from Stewart Air Base. Silver Stream, considered a transmission route for the PFOS, runs just north of their house.

His well water tested clean, but Nugent feared contamination.

“It comes right down the hill, right down the stream,” Nugent said of contamination from the air base. “And I live right here.”

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