Big Guns Arrive To Tackle Drinking Water
By Edie Johnson
Kevin Matlock, Chief Operations Logistics Airforce National Guard discusses planned mitigations.
Crowds grew through the day to discuss water solutions with the experts.
Defense Department and Air Force Finally Tackling PFO Water Contaminant Issue
New Windsor, City of Newburgh, Blooming Grove, Cornwall – At a Meeting at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center, the ‘Big Guns’ came to tackle the water issues that have plagued Newburgh residents for the past two years, and caused many to worry for their health because of PFO residue that seeped into groundwater from firefighting foam used at and in areas around the Stewart Air Base, both to fight fires, and for practice sessions. A State of Emergency resulted from readings that were above safety levels for the contaminant that has only recently been added to Hazardous Materials lists.
Honorable Robert McMahon of the US Defense Department, Kevin L. Mattoch, Chief Operations Logistics and Installations and Hon. John Henderson, Assistant Secretary of Air Force Installations set up information tables and chatted with a steady stream of residents and environmentally concerned citizens from the area. They also met with officials from the nearby towns affected by the toxicity which can cause several kinds of cancer, low birth rates, thyroid and numerous other problems. The City of Newburgh has resourced their supply to the Catskills Aqueduct for now, and while a complex and expensive filtration system was installed at Lake Washington (their usual drinking water source), City Manager, Michael Ciaravino’s research into the topic suggested that there are some PFO’s that are not caught in that type of filter. This informational and communication session, including a list of questions by all interested parties, is continuing throughout the afternoon (Thursday) from 1 till 5 pm.
Meanwhile, New Windsor does not get its water from either of those sources, and in fact now has their own deep wells and filtration system that were proven to be PFO-free. However, a portion of Beaver Dam Lake, which is located several miles south and sits partly in New Windsor, and partly in Blooming Grove and Cornwall, tested high levels at its north end. People with wells, mainly at the north end of the lake, showed some high readings, and were given POET (Point of Entry Treatment) systems. But residual PFO’s that could remain in sediment and could cause a danger to swimmers and the many who boat and fish in Beaver Dam Lake, became an especially thorny issue since the dam, which has been in serious need of repair, is scheduled for repair. The Orange County Post has learned that the levels that the Lake will be lowered to have been altered, in order that the residue (which can last for many years) will likely not be disturbed as the water flows over the dam and down the Moodna Creek toward Cornwall (which has wells that are in fact used as a drinking water source).
The Plan – The Orange County Post has learned while the Air National Guard has begun an extensive study and plans to ameliorate the toxic effluent’s travel, it was NOT aware that the towns which have upscale homes surrounding BD Lake are also being impacted. While an increase in flooding in recent years has been managed well by the adjacent localities which have received New York Rising grants and have put them to good drainage use, the direction of flow from Stewart southward suggests that closer monitoring of Silver Stream and other tributaries as they flow south beyond Beaver Dam and into the Moodna Creek would be wise, to say the least.
In fact, Kevin Mattoch, as Chief of the Air National Guard’s Operations Division said he was very glad to have been made aware of the need to expand their studies to include the Beaver Dam Lake area.
So far, Mattoch said, they have done dozens of interviews with fire fighters and others who were involved in and had knowledge of use of the foam. They have identified 13 sites that he feels should be further studied. They plan to not only study sites affected, but also plan to map possible pathways to other possible drinking sources, test them, and do it aggressive.
Meanwhile the Air National Guard has committed to “retrofitting fire vehicles with systems that prevents foam discharge during equipment testing and training and replacing legacy AFFF in hangars”, and continue exploration of other greener and safer fire treatment materials.
(Photos by Edie Johnson)