Just How Bad Is it?
DEC Considers Making Stewart Superfund Site
By Edie Johnson
Residents of the northern corner of Orange County may have felt like they were on a merry-go-round this week, about whether water sources flowing from tributaries and lakes around Newburgh were under a new toxic warning or not. City of Newburgh Mayor, Torrence Harvey first issued a statement that another firefighting foam spill from Stewart Airport had gone into Silver Stream, and that chemists were testing it for contaminants. Stewart officials reassured that there was no PFAS or PFOA in the spill and the next announcement from the City was that they were told there were no AFFF’s involved (Aqueous Firefighting Fluids). The next two announcements were shocking. Not only were there 26 PFA variants in the spill, they were tested along the stream in amounts up to 52,000 percent higher than previous tests. While these spill contaminants do not presently put the City of Newburgh’s drinking water at risk, because they are no longer getting their water from Washington Lake, it not only raised the question of how long Washington Lake might continue to be at risk along with Brown’s Pond and towns and villages southward, especially since readings of contaminants found were as far as 2,500 feet downstream. While residents wondered whether rumors are true that federal officials have decided they will not be responsible for groundwater contamination (only surface contaminants), the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation of New York announced yesterday that they are considering making the area a Superfund Site. That may bring yet more resources to the area to clean up the mess, but residents wonder if they can trust the same people at Stewart who apparently either neglected to check all of the ingredients in the product they were using, or failed to consider that when “Proprietary Ingredients” are listed they need to be further researched, or worse yet, whether they lied.
The City of Newburgh’s thoroughness in hiring chemists to do a proper investigation and forcing proper cleanup has brought a lot of credit for their commitment, diligence and thoroughness as is shown in a very lengthy analysis, a PORTION of which is shown below:
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.”
AGE compared the PFAS compounds to the September 2018 sampling results within Silver Stream.The comparisons to the total PFAS and Total PFOA/PFOS are provided below.
- Total PFAS increased in the upstream (SW-1 and SW-2) vs. the September 2018 Silver Stream Upstream (SS US) results by 54,000% and 43,000%, respectively. Note that the 2019 sampling location is approximately 2,600 ft. (SW-1) and 1,000 ft. (SW-2) from the upstream location in 2018.
- Total PFOA/PFOS increased in the upstream (SW-1 and SW-2) vs. the September 2018 Silver Stream Upstream (SS US) results by 2,300% and 1,100%, respectively. Note that the 2019 sampling location is approximately 2,600 ft. (SW-1) and 1,000 ft. (SW-2) from the upstream location in 2018.
- Total PFAS increased in the downstream (SW-3) vs. the September 2018 Silver Stream Downstream (SS DS) sampled by 1,500%. Note that the 2018 sampling location is upstream of the confluence of the Washington Lake Dewatering System discharge and the 2019 location is downstream of the discharge.
It would seem that these discharges and the danger they have the potential to present to groundwater endanger the surrounding towns and villages as well as Newburgh.