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Tests confirm PFOA, PFOS in NY city stream from firefighting foam

One sample taken detected PFOS and PFOA levels at 1,190 parts per trillion, well above the federal EPA health advisory limit of 70 ppt

Lana Bellamy
The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.

NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. — Test results released by the City of Newburgh on Tuesday confirmed preliminary data indicating PFOS detected in Silver Stream was from firefighting foam that spilled from the Atlantic Aviation hangar at New York Stewart International Airport on April 13, city officials said.

The city released a 107-page report with lab results from samples taken at three places in Silver Stream the day after the spill by environmental contractors from Advanced GeoServices Engineering. The results were analyzed by Alpha Analytical of Mansfield, Mass.

One sample taken by engineers at an unnamed tributary to Silver Stream, about 350 feet south of Route 207, near Bivona Lane, detected PFOS and PFOA levels at 1,190 parts per trillion, well above the federal Environmental Protection Agency health advisory limit of 70 ppt. The other two samples also detected perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, levels well above the federal limit. PFOS and PFOA belong to a family of chemicals referred to as PFAS.

The city is currently drawing water from Brown’s Pond, which is not affected by the recent spill, Newburgh’s interim city manager, Joe Donat, said. Washington Lake, the city’s former primary source for drinking water, is also not affected since Silver Stream has been diverted from feeding the reservoir after high levels of PFOS were discovered in 2016.

Donat said the recent spill highlights the vulnerability of the city’s watershed and fortifies city officials’ reasoning for not considering a return to using Washington Lake water in the future.

Donat said a long-term solution may be to continue tapping New York City’s Catskill Aqueduct as a primary water source, with an option to hook up to the Delaware Aqueduct or Brown’s Pond when needed.

City officials were told last week by a low-level employee at Stewart Airport that the foam used by Atlantic Aviation did not contain PFOS, Donat said. The state Department of Environmental Conservation also said it did not believe the foam contained PFOS, since it was made to replace legacy foams.

“These sample results show that the AFFF contaminated runoff released by the airport last weekend did, in fact, contain high levels of PFAS,” City Engineer Jason Morris said in a news release from the City of Newburgh.

DEC’s information was based on what it was told by Atlantic Aviation and the materials safety data sheets prepared by the foam manufacturer. DEC has received Newburgh’s test results and will consider them along with its own results once they are validated. That data will determine what next steps, or potential legal action, is appropriate or necessary for the state to pursue.

“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC, continues to closely oversee the cleanup efforts of Atlantic Aviation, the party responsible for the April 13 spill of firefighting foam at Stewart International Airport,” the department said in a statement Tuesday. “DEC is requiring the responsible party deploy all available resources to assist with the cleanup and to ensure public health and the environment are protected.”


©2019 The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.