Campaigns & Cases > Safeguard Drinking Water > Newburgh Drinking Water Crisis

Newburgh Drinking Water Crisis


Photo: Daniel Case via CC

Nine months later, PFOS pollution from the Stewart Air National Guard Base continues unabated


Request blood testing
People who drank the water in Newburgh were exposed to a toxic chemical. Testing blood is an essential step to determine levels of exposure. If you want your blood tested, call the Department of Health to request blood testing for you and your family at (518) 402-7950, or email

Help Raise Community Awareness
Join Riverkeeper’s and Independence for Newburgh’s joint outreach efforts to educate the Newburgh community about this issue and to invite them to the next in the series of city-organized community meetings.
To volunteer, please e-mail Jen Benson at


The City of Newburgh is facing a drinking water crisis after the toxic chemical PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) was found to have contaminated its primary reservoir, Lake Washington, prompting the city manager to declare a state of emergency in May 2016. New York State has since declared the Stewart Air National Guard Base, as one major source of the contamination, a state Superfund site. While the emergency declaration has been lifted as alternate sources of water have been provided to ensure tap water is running free of PFOS in the short term, the city faces long-term challenges of removing the sources of contamination, cleansing its reservoir, providing appropriate medical attention to the 29,000 residents exposed to the water, and reversing the long-standing degradation of water quality in the streams, wetlands and open spaces that naturally filter and feed its reservoirs.

Riverkeeper’s involvement in Newburgh dates to landmark cases to stop pollution of the Quassaick Creek, chronicled in The Riverkeepers, and more recent work related to water quality monitoring and advocacy to reduce sewage leaks and overflows. Our community monitoring project with the Quassaick Creek Watershed Alliance, a local citizens group devoted to education and research, prompted us to scrutinize the Air National Guard Base permit in 2015, and identify significant deficiencies directly relevant to the eventual Superfund designation of the site. In July 2016, we published an influential Case Study and Call for Comprehensive Source Water Protection.

Riverkeeper’s advocacy, in collaboration with local partners, is twofold: Protect the people, and protect the water.

To protect the people, the most immediate need is to advocate for the state and federal governments to offer free blood testing for PFOS to all those exposed, as part of a comprehensive long-term medical screening program.

To protect the water, we have argued for both aggressive investigation, cleanup and interim remedial action to eliminate the sources of contamination – and for long-term watershed restoration to prevent the next crisis.

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