“Water Emergency” discussed at City of Newburgh Forum

Image courtesy of: Madison Beckman

By Madison Beckman

NEWBURGH—Mount Saint Mary College hosted the City of Newburgh’s second Water Forum this week to discuss the contamination of Lake Washington, the previous source of water for the area.

On Monday, Sept. 19, approximately 200 people, including concerned residents and local legislators, gathered in the Aquinas auditorium to listen as representatives addressed the current state of the water situation.

The highlight of the night was when Dr. Nathan Graber, Director of the Center of Environmental Health from the New York State Department of Health, announced the new blood testing program.

The New York State Department of Health will be launching a program for residents to be tested to determine their exposure levels to the PFOS contamination. The announcement pleased a variety of enthused residents, many of whom had demanded such measures to be taken for a while now.

Dr Graber said that while these “complex blood tests” would be able to test exposure levels, they would not be able to definitively link to any specific health issues. He also warned that due to the complexity of the test, there would only be a certain number of tests administered.

PFOS is typically used by airport firefighters to put out fires on the runway. Evidence shows the contamination is most likely coming from the local airport in Stewart. But officials said they are more interested in restoring the drinking water than hunting down and holding those responsible for the contamination accountable.

Additionally, the forum discussed the ongoing efforts to remediate the issue. As Mount Messenger reported last semester, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised their recommend levels of healthy exposure levels of PFOS, or perflourinated chemicals, from 200 parts per million to 70 parts per million. The City of Newburgh had 170 parts per million in the drinking water, a PPM level considered safe under the original recommendation, but too high under the new recommendation, constituting it as a “water emergency.”

Currently, the City of Newburgh is importing water from the Catskills Aqueduct.  “The City of Newburgh’s water has never been this clean in the last 50 years,” said City Manager Michael Ciaravino.

Since Newburgh has been declared an environmental superfund site, the city has received a tremendous amount of financial support from New York State, including funds to help secure the new water source. Additional assistance provided by the State included the monetary resources needed to remediate the contamination from the old source. According to Ciaravino, the city ultimately has plans of returning to the old reservoir within the year.

The City of Newburgh has already scheduled the next Water Forum to take place at the Newburgh Armory on Nov. 7.

Want more information? Knight Media recorded the entire presentation if you’re interested in seeing it for yourself.

You can also go to the city’s official website for more information about the current water situation.