Before the national requirement to phase out the use of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances by 2024, PFOS/PFOA were commonly used in firefighting foams, including at the Stewart Air National Guard (SANG) Base, where they ran off into the City of Newburgh’s drinking watershed, contaminating the city’s primary drinking water reservoir, Washington Lake. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to increased cholesterol, changes in liver enzymes, increased risk of high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer.
Since the State of Emergency in June 2016, the City of Newburgh has received its drinking water from temporary alternative sources, including Brown’s Pond, and the Catskill Aqueduct which provides drinking water for New York City. PFAS contamination remains in Washington Lake and areas on the Stewart Air National Guard Base.
The Stewart Air National Guard Base was listed as a New York State Superfund site in August 2016, which brings the site under the NYS Superfund Program for identifying, investigating, and cleaning up hazardous waste sites. Under Superfund law, remediation is funded by the responsible parties. Furthermore, a Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) (originally formed as a Restoration Advisory Committee) was formed in early 2020 to provide advice to the New York Air National Guard, regulators, and other government agencies on environmental clean-up activities and community involvement. The RAB also reviews and comments on various technical documents and related site information; holds regular RAB meetings, discusses/exchanges information regarding site cleanup; and its members act as liaisons to the community. Clearwater has had an organizational seat on the RAB since its inception, and the seat is currently held by Director of Environmental Action, Jen Benson.
Clearwater works closely with the Newburgh Clean Water Project, a grassroots group of Newburgh residents who engage the community in advocating for Newburgh’s long-term access to clean drinking water, comprehensive health resources for those who’ve been affected by PFAS and lead, and the restoration of their watershed— now and for future generations. Learn more about the Newburgh Clean Water Project.
At the October 25 Restoration Advisory Board poster session, local Newburgh-based non-profit, Outdoor Promise recorded interviews with each poster presenter which are available in Spanish and English. Each recording begins with remarks from the Newburgh Clean Water Project, Riverkeeper, and Clearwater.
Next Restoration Advisory Board meeting: 5:30PM Wednesday, January 31, 2024 at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center (321 South William St, Newburgh, NY 12550 – map)
Live Spanish translation will be available for the RAB meeting.
It’s time to Speed Up the Cleanup!
Although Stewart Air National Guard Base was designated a New York State Superfund Site in August of 2016, discharges of PFAS continue. The site’s State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permits are currently up for renewal, and a remedial investigation is currently underway at the base. In the meantime, Clearwater stands with the Newburgh Clean Water Project and other Restoration Advisory Board members in calling for the cleanup timelines at Stewart to be expedited, PFAS discharges from the base to be stopped, and engineering studies conducted to determine how to best approach these actions.
- Increase the capacity of the Interim Storm Water Treatment System at Recreation Pond. Stormwater from Stewart primarily discharges into Recreation Pond and is treated by a PFAS filtration system, with the exception of when the amount of stormwater exceeds the volume of the system during storms. Downstream from Recreation Pond are water sources for the City of Newburgh and the Town of New Windsor. To address the current capacity constraints, water storage capacity and/or filter capacity could be increased, along with reducing the amount of contaminated stormwater moving through the filtration system.
- Adding slip-lining to the stormwater pipes to prevent contaminated groundwater from entering stormwater pipes. This would stop PFAS-contaminated groundwater from entering surface waters, and reduce the amount of volume of contaminated water that needs to be treated.
- End stormwater diversions under Stewart Air National Guard Base from properties along 17K. At present, a few properties on 17K have their stormwater diverted below Stewart Air National Guard Base, risking PFAS contamination, and are then discharged into Recreation Pond. Currently, the New York State Department of Transportation is working to develop options to stop this stormwater diversion, and instead channel the stormwater to Patton Brook. Diverting stormwater from Route 17K is critical to reducing the volume of contaminated stormwater at Recreation Pond.
- Experimental stormwater treatments. Experimental treatments for cleaning up PFAS contamination should be considered and utilized. In Westchester County, New York State DEC is testing the use of Fluoro-sorb mats to reduce PFAS discharges.
Documents + Resources relevant to the Stewart Air National Guard Restoration Advisory Board and PFAS Contamination: