New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney held a telephone town hall Wednesday night. Callers asked about a range of topics, from health care to PFOS contamination in Newburgh to domestic violence.
Hudson Valley Congressman Maloney, a Democrat, responded to a caller’s concern about the potential repeal of Obamacare.
“I know there’s a lot of negative stuff being said about Trumpcare but, I really mean it, I will work with the president tomorrow on any good idea. I have a bunch of my own. And I’m not the only one,” Maloney says. “A lot of us understand that we need to fix some stuff in Obamacare but we don’t need to scrap everything that’s good in there to do it.”
Another caller asked about Maloney’s stance on single-payer health care, including a” Medicare for all” bill which not all Democrats fully embrace, including Maloney.
“There’s plusses and minuses. I haven’t been comfortable with that bill. I’m looking at it very closely. I’m not closing the door on it but, I have to tell you honestly, when you strip it all away, a lot of that is academic because the Republicans are running both houses of Congress and Donald Trump is president. We are not getting a single-payer system any time soon,” says Maloney. “So I’m a pretty practical guy. I don’t spend a lot of my time doing pie-in-the-sky stuff right now. There’s a lot of people doing that. What I want to do is I want to stop this terrible bill that’s going to destroy our health care right now and I want to provide solutions to fixing what’s wrong with the Affordable Care Act because that’s real.”
Maloney says he is concerned about impacts to veterans and health care costs under a single-payer system. Another issue raised was PFOS water contamination in Newburgh. It was May 2016 when the public learned about the contamination in the city’s main drinking water supply, Washington Lake, linked to firefighting foam used at Stewart Air National Guard base. And nearly one year ago, New York state declared the base a Superfund site.
“We are going to get DoD to pay for the cleanup. That is taking some time but it’s going to happen,” Maloney says. “It’s not going to come on the backs of Newburgh.”
And though the city now draws water from the Catskill Aqueduct as the state funds the construction of a carbon filtration system for the lake, Jack from Newburgh asked what was being done to stem PFOS-laden water discharges from the base.
“The issue that’s not being addressed is that Moodna Creek is being polluted continuously, for the past year,” Jack says. “It’s being polluted right now because there’s no filters being put on the outputs of the water sources that drain into that.”
He refers to outfalls from Stewart Air National Guard Base, where some of the highest concentrations of PFOS have been found. Again, Maloney.
“I cannot sit here in Washington, make you feel better about what has already happened to Silver Stream and the Moodna Creek but, what I’m telling you is, we’re going to stay on it till the cows come home,” says Maloney. “And I am working every way I know how to get every bit of cleanup material and every bit of filtration we can to stop whatever ongoing contamination there is from the original contaminated source.”
Elected officials and area residents have been calling on the Department of Defense to halt the discharges. Maloney says there is a plan to have DoD step up and pay for the cleanup overall.
“And we are working right now on legislation that is going to require the Department of Defense to pay the millions of dollars, we think it’s about $35 million right off the bat, we’re going to do that in the appropriations bill as early as next week to force the Department of Defense to take responsibility for this, and I’m working with Schumer and the rest,” Maloney says.
The day of Maloney’s town hall call, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said he met with the secretary of defense about accelerating PFOS cleanup at Stewart Air National Guard Base.
In addition, a domestic violence survivor who withheld her name had a question.
“Is there any awareness in Congress of the financial plight that survivors are in? It’s like, oh great you finally get out of that situation and you get psychological help but your life has been ruined.”
“Listen, it’s a great point and, I have to tell you, I haven’t thought of it that way before so you’ve given me something to think about,” says Maloney. “I think the straight answer to your questions is no, not really but maybe there should be.”
Maloney plans to hold four in-person town halls, which he calls “Speak with Sean,” this weekend — two on Saturday, in Port Jervis and Middletown, and two on Sunday, in Beacon and Cold Spring.