U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, today announced that the final FY 2019 Defense Appropriations bill, which is expected to pass both chambers of Congress in the coming weeks, includes their language that authorizes $20 million in federal funding for the Air National Guard to make payments to reimburse the State of New York and local water authorities for the cleanup of PFOA and PFOS contamination due to Air National Guard-related activities. Specifically, the funds will be used to pay New York State and impacted local water authorities back for treatment of PFOA and PFOS contamination in the areas surrounding the Stewart Air National Guard Base in Orange County.
“The City of Newburgh’s drinking water was contaminated by toxic PFOS that originated on Stewart Air National Guard base, and the response to that mess has cost New York taxpayers many millions of dollars, which deserve to be paid back. That is why it is so critical to ensure the passage of this amendment, which authorizes essential funding to reimburse New York and local water authorities for the millions they spent responding to a mess not of their making,” said Senator Schumer. “This federal funding is a crucial step in bringing some much-needed relief to New York, and it will free up the flexibility for New York to do even more for the people of Newburgh as we recover from this destructive chemical pollution. I was proud to sponsor this amendment and lead the charge to push it over the finish line, and will keep fighting tirelessly in Washington until all New Yorkers have the safe drinking water they need.”
“We are now one step closer to ensuring that the federal government can do its part to help the communities near military bases contaminated by PFOS and PFOA chemicals. The City of Newburgh has been using its own resources to clean up the contamination originating from the Stewart Air National Guard Base, and once this amendment is passed into law, the Department of Defense will be able to finally reimburse them for this expensive cleanup,” said Senator Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “I was proud to fight for this amendment, and I will continue to work to make sure that communities exposed PFOS and PFOA contamination have the resources they need to clean their water supplies.”
The amendment, cosponsored by Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, allows the Air National Guard to use federal funds to make payments to reimburse local water authorities and states for expenses they have incurred in the treatment of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, which was a result of the Air Force or the National Guard’s activities. If signed into law, these payments will be made to local water authorities that have spent significant resources to try and provide safe drinking water for their communities.
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. This year, after Schumer and Gillibrand’s push, a report concerning the health effects of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) was finally released to the public, after its release was seemingly delayed because of political considerations.