Water Quality Remains Issue for Newburgh

NEWBURGH – City residents in Newburgh are still concerned about their PFOS and PFOA blood testing results, despite state agencies regularly apprising them of progress.

Monday evening, representatives from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Department of Health addressed the public, at the latest of a series of public hearings regarding the issue, updating them on the continued progress of the bio-monitoring program initiated for city residents; however, many are still confused on what to make of the blood testing information.

Director of the Division of Environmental Assessment for the health department Elizabeth Lewis-Michl said, “Approximately 1,000 people have had their blood sample collected, not all of those are at the lab yet; but actually, our labs have analyzed almost 750 blood samples.

We got the first half of those out a couple weeks ago, and we’re getting the second half of those, about 350 more, this week.”

Lewis-Michl added that there are approximately 2,300 residents who have applied for testing, but haven’t had themselves tested yet. Albeit, residents of the city, who have had their blood tested, are still unsure what to make of the results.

State agencies maintain that blood testing results should be shared with each individual’s family, or primary, doctor; but, they also maintain blood results cannot define causality for any particular illness. Some city residents have interpreted this as a tactic the state is taking to remove themselves from liability, a perception that was reinforced by City of Newburgh Councilman Torrance Harvey Monday evening.

Deputy Commissioner for Remediation for the DEC Martin Brand said that is not the case.

“The DEC is here to provide information on our response actions, that we’re building a filter to filter the water that the City of Newburgh uses, that we’re investigating the nature and extent of the contamination, and we’re going after the Department of Defense to hold them accountable for pollution in Lake Washington,” Brand said. “The Department of Health is providing information on their bio-monitoring program and they will continue to do so, but it has no relationship to any liability concerns. We work for the people, and the tax payers of the State of New York, and we’re providing information on what actions we’re taking.”

Although state agencies are proposing work solely on the people’s behalf, Community activist Omari Shakur believes the residents of the city are looking for remedy and many of those looking for it, are still not able to receive it, due to socio-economic status.

“There is still a group of people who are most at risk: the poor people, because their children are the ones who are going to get sick, if the water’s sick, and they’re the ones that are not going to be able to go to the doctor,” said Shakur. “So, what is being put in place for them?”

Shakur proposes a community liaison for such people to be informed of the situation, who couldn’t be otherwise. State agencies hold true that they will address all of the concerned individuals, within the city or affected by its water supply, and that they are not going anywhere until the job is done.

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