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Riverkeeper fights for Newburgh and its water

Riverkeeper’s work on Newburgh’s drinking water crisis started about one year before anyone knew there was a crisis. Through a community water quality monitoring project with Quassaick Creek Watershed Alliance, we had learned about some of the problems plaguing the watershed that naturally provides and filters water for the city’s 29,000 residents. Our heightened concern prompted us to criticize New York State’s proposed permit for the Stewart Air National Guard Base, for failing to adequately protect drinking water source from toxic stormwater discharges.

Roughly 18 months later, the Stewart Air National Guard Base would be declared a state Superfund site, one of the most consequential actions to date in the state’s response to the contamination of the city’s reservoir, Washington Lake, with PFOS – a toxic chemical used for decades in firefighting foam.

Riverkeeper is serving as a resource for the community as we fight, broadly, for two things – the people of Newburgh, and their water.

For the people of Newburgh, we’re fighting for a comprehensive medical monitoring program, which starts with blood testing to determine the level of exposure for any and all who have been exposed through drinking contaminated water. In Joint Legislative Hearings, the Department of Health committed to some form of biomonitoring, but not blood testing for all residents.

For the water, we’re fighting for an investigation and cleanup of contamination that is protective of both the city’s reservoir and the creeks and aquatic life within them. And we’re fighting for a long-term commitment to restoring water quality in the streams that feed Newburgh’s reservoir. We’ve moved the needle on the remedial investigation, ensuring the investigation of contamination is comprehensive; and in joint legislative hearings the Department of Environmental Conservation committed to doing a new study of vulnerabilities to Newburgh’s drinking water supply – the first step in comprehensive restoration.

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