Charles E. Schumer

11/22/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/22/2019 11:26

AS CRITICAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL NEARS COMPLETION, SCHUMER LAUNCHES MAJOR NEW EFFORT TO INCLUDE FULL SLATE OF PROVISIONS TO PROTECT NY’ERS FROM SCOURGE OF TOXIC PFAS[...]

11.22.19

For Years, Schumer Has Led The Charge To Remediate Toxic PFAS Contamination In Upstate Communities Like Newburgh & Hoosick Falls & On Long Island, Which Has Harmed Public Health

With NY, Upstate And Down, Still Suffering From Toxic Contamination, Schumer Launches New Effort To Pass Sweeping Set Of PFAS-Oriented Reforms In National Defense Authorization Act, Including To Allow For Federally-Funded PFAS Remediation Under The Superfund Program

Schumer: Prevalence And Danger Of PFAS Exposure Demand A Comprehensive Response From The Federal Govt. To Protect Drinking Water & Public Health From This Cancer-Causing Chemical

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched a major new effort to include a number of provisions designed to combat and remediate contamination from PFAS in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 final conference report.

Specifically, Schumer is pushing for provisions that would designate PFOA and PFOS, two of the most common types of PFAS, as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund program, which would allow for the federal government to remediate contamination caused by the Department of Defense (DOD), as well as other entities. Schumer said that residents of Upstate New York localities Newburgh, Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh, and the surrounding communities, as well as Suffolk County on Long Island, have been suffering from the scourge of PFAS contamination for far too long, and that these provisions would be an important step in remediating this cancer-causing chemical and in restoring the safe drinking water they need and deserve.

'From Newburgh to Long Island to Hoosick Falls, New Yorkers across our state have been plagued by the toxic contamination of their drinking water by PFAS. The prevalence of these carcinogens requires a comprehensive response from the federal government, so that residents of New York have access restored to the safe drinking water they need and deserve,' said Senator Schumer. 'That's why I'm fighting for a full slate of provisions to protect people from the scourge of PFAS and remediate the damage that has already been done, and my goal is to get this done in the National Defense Authorization Act this year. No one should have to fear that this cancer-causing chemical is harming their health or that of their family.'

Schumer is pushing for the following PFAS-oriented provisions in NDAA:

CERCLA/Superfund

  • Immediately designate PFOA and PFOS (and their associated salt compounds) as CERCLA hazardous substances in order for the program to expediently address contamination resultant from DOD activities as well as other contamination

Clean Water Act

  • Address the PFAS contamination at the source of the pollution by preventing polluters from releasing PFAS chemicals into waterways under the Clean Water Act.

Safe Drinking Water Act

  • Clean up PFAS contamination from drinking water supplies through the Safe Drinking Water Act, and require EPA to identify populations at greater risk from contaminants in drinking water, such as PFAS and all of its associated compounds, and set standards protective of those populations

Schumer explained that over three years ago, it was discovered that the City of Newburgh's drinking source, Washington Lake, near the Stewart Air National Guard Base in New Windsor, had been dangerously contaminated by PFAS. Schumer explained that the base's use of firefighting foam caused carcinogenic PFAS pollution of Lake Washington and its tributaries, the predominant source of drinking water for the City of Newburgh. In March 2016, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) tested Recreation Pond's water and found it contained certain PFAS contaminants almost 85 times the EPA health advisory limit, which likely came from the release of aqueous-forming foam from Stewart ANGB

Schumer has long fought to address toxic chemical PFAS contamination in New Windsor, impacting Newburgh's drinking water. In December of last year, Schumer received a commitment from the DOD that the Air National Guard, working with the Army Corps of Engineers, would begin installing interim remedial measures to limit the further discharge of PFAS contamination, and this May secured a $2 million grant from the DOD for a filtration system on Recreation Pond. Last fall, Schumer met with Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson to urge the Air Force to rev up the pace of PFAS contamination investigations and remediation efforts. Schumer also successfully worked to include his amendment to provide funding for the Air National Guard (ANG) to make payments to reimburse New York State and local water authorities for their ongoing remediation efforts and cleanup of PFAS contamination due to ANG-related activities in the FY2019 Senate Defense Appropriations bill.

In July of last year, after Schumer's push, a report concerning the health effects of PFAS was finally released to the public, after its release was seemingly delayed because of political considerations. In September 2017, after Schumer's urging, DOD immediately began their Site Investigation sampling which included Recreation Pond, another Schumer request, which yielded the highest concentration of PFOS according to the NYDEC's original testing. In June 2017, during an in-person meeting with then-U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Schumer called on the Department of Defense to participate in the remediation of toxic PFAS contamination. In May 2017, during a one-on-one meeting with then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Schumer called on the USAF to pledge that they would prioritize the prompt remediation of the PFAS contamination at Stewart Air National Guard Base.

Schumer has also fought relentlessly to address the PFOA contamination at Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh. In January 2016 Schumer, in a letter to Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, urged the company to address the contamination at Hoosick Falls. In May of 2016, Schumer pushed the EPA to immediately release its updated drinking water health advisory. Schumer said it was critical to address and remediate the full scope of the contamination and fought to get the critical Superfund designation for Hoosick Falls. And in February of this year, Schumer visited the Capital Region, to discuss the contamination and push the EPA to set a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act for highly toxic PFOA/PFOS chemicals.

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are two types of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of manufactured chemicals, and are persistent in the environment and resist degradation. These toxic chemicals are often used to manufacture products like fabric protectors, firefighting foam, and stain repellents. They are common primary ingredients in the firefighting foam that was used at Air National Guard bases for training and fire-suppression exercises, according to state regulators. Exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to certain cancers and other serious adverse health effects.

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