PFOS and PFOA Remediation Efforts Addressed

NEWBURGH – Representatives from the Department of Defense (DOD) visited the City of Newburgh on Thursday to meet with public officials and address the community about PFOS and the needed PFOA remediation efforts at Stewart Air Base.

This is the first time the federal government has reached out to the community of Newburgh since the water contamination was discovered there, with regards to clean water and funding for filtration systems.

According to Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, the feds had expressed their interest in visiting Newburgh and the county took advantage of the opportunity.

“We said we would host them because this is a big issue,” said Neuhaus. “There’s still more questions out there than answers and even though the county is basically an outside party and we’re interested because obviously these are our residents that are impacted, we want to start seeing some solutions.”

Before DOD representatives addressed the public, they held a closed session with elected officials from the state, county and city. Neuhaus and DOD officials said the subject matter was mostly regarding the creation of a Restoration Advisory Board, an implementation that has been utilized elsewhere for such efforts.

Some community leaders and residents expressed resentment towards this practice, short notice for the forum and a lack of a solid trajectory for remediation efforts during the public session.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment Robert McMahon said there is an acknowledgement that communication and response can always be better; however, in Newburgh’s case, the situation was complicated by funding.

“The challenge that we face is that within our federal government, we’ve been given some great authorities to be able to resolve environmental issues, defense environmental issues, on active duty bases- those bases that are funded out of federal dollars,” said McMahon. “The challenge is, that those same authorities don’t exist for us with regards to our National Guard bases that are state funded.”

Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Installations, Environment and Energy John Henderson said among the current 190 sites the Air Force oversees, Newburgh has been neglected. Henderson added it’s not feasible to add a timeline to a specific site’s remediation, but the Air Force has a good track record thus far and they will rely on the local residents’ collaboration to expedite the creation of the advisory board.

“That’s where we are here,” said Henderson. “Then, it’s time for us to get together with the community, the state regulatory officials and ERAB [Economic Recovery Advisory Board] and say, ‘What’s the menu of solutions, going forward, based on the data that we have, on a good definition of the problem. ‘That’s the way this works in accordance with CERLA [Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act], then we go to the next step in the process and get the funding and authority in place to get the solutions that can be acceptable to the community, that all the scientists agree on that that’s going to fix the problem and that the state regulators are ok with.”

McMahon and Henderson have been holding their positions for approximately three weeks, and less than a year, respectively.

PFOS blood testing is still available for city residents, or those affected by the water contamination. If you have not yet been tested, live in the area and are concerned, local officials urge you utilize this process.

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