AFFF RELEASED LAST WEEKEND FROM STEWART AIRPORT CONTAINED BOTH PFOA AND PFOS
By Edie Johnson
In an inquiry last week we asked City of Newburgh Mayor, Torrence Harvey, what he had been able to find out about the large amount of firefighting foam that was inadvertently discharged from Stewart into the Silver Stream tributary the previous week. He had been reassured by airport officials that there are no AFFFs (Aqueous Firefighting Foam PFO’s) used in current training operations. The Mayor and City Manager saw to it that the City had its own chemical analyses done and found the following results, contrary to that reported by airport officials. The disconnect may be occurring because some manufacturers list “Proprietary Ingredients” in their products.
These releases impact not only Newburgh, but surrounding communities as the contaminant travels the tributaries southward.
City of Newburgh offered the following Press Release this morning (4/23):
CITY OF NEWBURGH
(Newburgh, NY) Water samples taken in Silver Stream tested positive for high levels of various perfluorinated chemicals, including PFOS and PFOA. These samples were taken by the City of Newburgh’s environmental consultant following the release of Aqueous Fire Fighting Foam (“AFFF”) from a hangar on Stewart International Airport into the environment. The AFFF traveled through storm drains into Silver Stream.
“The City’s drinking water is safe,” said City of Newburgh Water Superintendent Wayne Vradenburgh, emphasizing that the City’s water supply no longer comes from Washington Lake. The City stopped using Washington Lake in 2016 due to elevated levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”), which were in excess of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Lifetime Health Advisory of 70 parts per trillion announced on May 16, 2016.
City officials were previously advised by Airport officials that the AFFF released earlier this month did not contain fluorinated chemicals. “These sample results show that the AFFF contaminated runoff released by the Airport last weekend did in fact contain high levels of PFAS,” said City Engineer Jason Morris.
“Last weekend’s release highlights the vulnerability of the City of Newburgh’s watershed,” said Interim City Manager Joseph Donat, stating that the City needs long-term solutions to provide a permanent and safe water supply. It is critical that public and private stakeholders work together to prevent future releases and remediate the existing contamination. “The City is committed to safeguarding its watershed and will not rest until a long-term solution is agreed upon. In order to reach an agreement, we need to see increased collaboration and cooperation between all parties involved.”
The City of Newburgh applauds its Water Superintendent and Engineer for proactively sampling upstream portions of Silver Stream. The City Manager, Water Superintendent and Engineer responded to the incident and have been closely monitoring the remediation work over the last two weeks. The Mayor and City Council are united in their efforts to mitigate this longstanding risk and will not rest until this issue is resolved.
Inquiries about remediation efforts should be directed to the NYSDEC at (845) 256-3033.