Blogs > Water Quality > Key questions as Defense Dept. commits to filtering discharges from Stewart Air National Guard Base

Key questions as Defense Dept. commits to filtering discharges from Stewart Air National Guard Base

According to federal elected representatives, the Army Corps of Engineers will install a $2.4 million system to filter the discharges from the Stewart Air National Guard Base that are laced with toxic PFAS chemicals associated with firefighting foam. Senator Chuck Schumer first announced late last year that the Department of Defense would have a filtration system operational within three to six months. Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney has just revealed the budget for the project, now expected to be operational by the end of summer.

The news is welcome and long overdue. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), concerned citizens, and elected representatives at all levels have called for this action. Riverkeeper first called for this action in a May 2016 letter.

The pollution flowing off the base is no longer directly contaminating Washington Lake, which until May 2016 had been Newburgh’s primary drinking water supply. [The city today is using New York City water from the Catskill Aqueduct, and water from Browns Pond, another Newburgh reservoir.] Instead, contaminated water from the base is flowing into Moodna Creek and the Hudson River. As the DEC stocks trout in the Moodna Creek this Spring, anglers will have to remember there is a catch-and-release-only advisory for all fish caught in Moodna Creek, Silver Stream and Washington Lake, due to PFAS contamination from the Stewart Air National Guard Base.

Some key questions are still to be answered about the interim remedial measure (IRM) to be installed at the Base, including what volume of stormwater discharge it will be designed to treat, and, critically, to what treatment standards it will be held.

The current federal federal health advisory level for two of the most prominent PFAS chemicals, PFOS or PFOA, in drinking water are woefully outdated, set at 70 parts per trillion (ppt). The New York State Drinking Water Quality Council has recommended limits of 10 ppt each for those chemicals, and the New York State Department of Health has indicated it will consider setting a combined Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for both.

But in the absence of clear, enforceable standards, Newburgh and its allies will have to be vigilant as the Department of Defense makes important decisions about how to filter the toxic water flowing from Stewart Air National Guard Base.

Community members also need to know what the next steps may be to establish a Restoration Advisory Board, and whether officials have taken any other actions since November 15 to solicit interest from citizens about serving on such a board.

Schumer announced this week that federal officials will return to Newburgh on April 18. The public meeting is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. at the Newburgh Armory, 321 S William St.

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