CURRENT WATER SOURCE
Alternate sources of water have been provided to ensure the City of Newburgh's tap water is running free of PFAS in the short term. Currently, the City is on the Catskill Aqueduct, New York City's clean and protected water supply, between January 30 and Nov 30, 2020 (date subject to change). At that time, the aqueduct will be shut off for 10 weeks to allow the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to inspect and repair its infrastructure. For that 10 week duration, the City will return to Brown's Pond, (a 0.3 square mile backup reservoir). Brown's Pond will be tested for PFAS, PFOA and 1,4 Dioxane, (toxins now regulated by NY State law), before the water is filtered through the City's granulated activated carbon (GAC) filtration system. These are temporary sources. The City of Newburgh is currently without an adequate, guaranteed source of clean water for its future. Neither New York State nor the Department of Defense, (the primary polluter), have committed to supplying Newburgh with clean water for the time span it will take to fully remediate our watershed and return to our original source of drinking water: Lake Washington. Remediation will most likely take decades, so a long-term solution is needed.
Catskill Aqueduct - Our LONG-TERM WATER SOURCE?
The Catskill Aqueduct is part of NYC's drinking water supply system—one of the most extensive and well-protected municipal water systems in the world—with three major aqueduct-and-reservoir networks and over 130,000 acres of conserved land. However, this system is 100+ years old in some parts and in sore need of repair.
"The Croton, Catskill and Delaware watersheds deliver approximately 1.4 billion gallons of pristine, unfiltered drinking water each day from 19 upstate reservoirs to more than nine million people living in New York City, Westchester, Putnam, Orange and Ulster Counties. The 6,000-mile network of subterranean aqueducts carrying the water are in various states of disrepair and threaten the City's supply of fresh water."
Intermittently between 2018-2020, the Catskill Aqueduct is undergoing a $158 million maintenance project to repair leaks, replace old valves, remove biofilm accumulation and undergo other mechanical and structural upgrades. Once the Aqueduct has been upgraded, we hope that it can remain as the City of Newburgh's long-term supply. The NYC water system is overseen by NYC's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as well as their Water Board and Municipal Water Finance Authority.
NEW YORK STATE ADOPTS PROTECTIVE PFAS STANDARDS + MORE PROTECTION IS NEEDED!
In the absence of EPA leadership, states have responded by setting their own PFAS safety standards. Under the pressure of environmental and public health advocates, including NCWP, the NYS Dept. of Health and Governor Cuomo enacted standards on July 20, 2020, setting a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 10 ppt for two of the most common PFAS (PFOA & PFOS) and 1 ppt for the emerging contaminant, 1,4 Dioxane. While these are among the most strict PFAS regulations in the country, the National Defense Research Council's research shows PFAS at levels as low as 2 ppt still having detrimental health effects on people and animals. NCWP and its allies will continue to fight for stricter protections, as well as the regulation of PFAS as a class - a group of nearly 5000 man-made chemicals that are virtually untested and used in consumer and industrial products everyday. PFAS can persist in the body for up to decades, giving them the name "forever chemicals". They are linked to cancers, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, decreased immunity, pregnancy and child development issues. NY State passed a law on July 23, 2020 to eliminate the use of PFAS in all food packaging which will take effect in 2023.
A CALL TO REGULATE THE ENTIRE FAMILY OF PFAS CHEMICALS TO LOWEST LEVELS FOR TRUE PROTECTION OF PUBLIC HEALTH
In response to the Governor's announcement, Maureen Cunningham, Senior Director for Clean Water at Environmental Advocates of New York (EANY) states:
“This long-awaited first step puts New York on a path to cleaner drinking water. Establishing Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane will require all public water systems in New York to test for these chemicals and take action when elevated levels of contamination are discovered. However, recent science shows that there is likely no safe level of these chemicals, and the state MCLs must reflect this. Environmental Advocates will continue to urge the Department of Health to bring their MCLs in line with the most recent science during the public commenting period.” — Maureen Cunningham, Senior Director for Clean Water at EANY
According to EarthJustice, PFAS are a family of approximately 5,000 man-made organic chemicals that we come in contact with primarily through our drinking water. Leading government scientists have acknowledged PFAS cannot be regulated individually.