U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney were in Orange County today, urging the Air Force to designate Stewart Air National Guard Base the No. 1 cleanup project in the country. The two Democrats made their call at Washington Lake, Newburgh’s main drinking water supply, where toxic PFOS contamination was found in the spring of 2016.
Schumer says there is an amendment in the defense bill awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature to help the Air Force remediate PFOS and PFOA contamination, like the PFOS contamination at Stewart Air National Guard base, which was declared a state Superfund site in August 2016.
“We need the Air Force to designate Stewart as the top cleanup site in all these United States,” Schumer said.
Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Maloney, all Democrats, pushed the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that includes $323 million in federal funding for the U.S. Air Force’s Environmental Restoration Fund. They say this will allow for the identification, investigation and cleanup of former waste disposal sites on military property, like Stewart Air National Guard base. Again, Schumer.
“The residents of Newburgh, Orange County, have seen so much foot dragging and finger pointing since the contamination was uncovered. It’s time for the Air Force to make up for its past mistakes and put us No. 1,” Schumer said. “If they did, this budget will be finished by December 31, and they can start allocating money early next year.”
And here’s Maloney.
“I’m absolutely delighted that the bill on the president’s desk right now is going to enforce the old rule that ‘you break it, you buy it,’” Maloney said. “And the Air Force and the Department of Defense broke this water system. This bill’s going to make them pay to clean it up. That’s as it should be. The residents of Newburgh, citizens of Orange County did not create this mess and should not bear the cost of cleaning it up.”
Schumer says he has spoken with top military officials.
“We got the legislation passed,” said Schumer. “I’ve talked to the secretary of the Air Force and the secretary of defense and said to them, ‘if I get this in the bill, I want Newburgh to come first,’ and they did not dissent, so now we need them to follow through.”
Plus, he says.
“Mattis said to me, this is our responsibility and we have to be responsible for it,” said Schumer. “So now, they’re not, they’re not denying responsibility, they just have to fund, put their money where their mouth is.”
He refers to Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Again, Maloney.
“It’s very important that the Defense Department cover the remediation costs that have already been incurred,” Maloney said.
“Yeah”, Schumer said.
“And part of this legislation is also directing the Department of Defense to tell the Congress what additional authorities, if any, they need to pay for all of the work that had to be done before now, after now, start to finish,” Maloney said. “And that, together with the help from the state is going to fully address this issue at no cost to the local residents.”
And Maloney talked about another part of the defense bill related to PFOS contamination.
“My legislation called the ‘Investing in Testing Act’ is also part of the defense authorization bill,” Maloney said. “This will immediately require the Centers for Disease Control to conduct a two-year study on what the heck the long-term health effects are of PFOAs and PFOSs because we don’t have good science on that.”
A state-funded permanent carbon filtration system for Washington Lake is near ready and expected to be fully operational in December. The lake has been offline as a drinking water source and the city has been drawing its drinking water from the Catskill Aqueduct.