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Maloney Calls on EPA to Set Clear Standard on Water Contaminants, Renews Request for Aid to Newburgh

May 19, 2016
Press Release

Newburgh, NY – In response to continued uncertainty regarding the EPA’s standards of safe drinking water in the City of Newburgh, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately set a clear national standard for acceptable levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooc­tane sulfonate (PFOS) in drinking water. Rep. Maloney also renewed calls for the EPA to provide immediate material assistance to the City of Newburgh to remediate the contamination. Last week, Rep. Maloney called on the Department of Defense (DoD) to investigate the likely source of the contamination, Stewart Air National Guard Base.  

“We were promised meaningful standards on the levels of PFOS and PFOA in our drinking water by the spring, it’s almost summer and we have still not seen them,” said Maloney. “We are running out of time – my neighbors in Newburgh deserve answers now, they deserve to know what levels of PFOS and PFOA are safe. All my neighbors deserve to know their drinking water is safe, and by delaying, the EPA is neglecting one of its most basic duties – to protect families from environmental contaminants – and that’s unacceptable.”

In early May, Newburgh City Manager Michael Ciaravino declared a state of emergency following tests of Newburgh’s water, which showed abnormal, and potentially dangerous levels of the pollutant PFOS, a chemical used in firefighting foams, sealants, and cleaning products. In 2009, the EPA released a provisional advisory on the maximum safe levels of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water. The advisory has not been updated since its release. Following initial reports of contamination in the City of Newburgh water, Rep. Maloney and Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand wrote a letter to the EPA calling for immediate assistance to determine the source of the contamination, test contaminant levels, and formulate a remediation plan.

The full text of the letter is available below:


Dear Administrator McCarthy:

I write to ask for the immediate release of updated health advisories for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooc­tane sulfonate (PFOS) in drinking water that include values for protection from long-term exposures. As you know, a range of communities across the country, including Newburgh, New York, are struggling with dangerously high levels of PFOA and PFOS in their water. That is simply unacceptable. The American people have an absolute right to safe, reliable drinking water.

Complicating the problem is the lack of an actionable, national standard from the EPA for PFOA and PFOS. I understand that the EPA has been working to release updated health advisories to replace the existing provisional advisory levels. I strongly urge you to release those updated advisories immediately. Doing so is essential to ensuring that impacted communities are able to take the necessary steps to fully address their water problems.

While I strongly urge an immediate release, should the EPA determine that doing so is not possible, I ask that it instead immediately release updated provisional guidelines that will give impacted communities greater clarity while EPA moves to finalize the new values, such as the site-specific guidance of 100 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA in water used for drinking or cooking that EPA Region 2 issued for the Town of Hoosick and Village of Hoosick Falls in New York on January 28, 2016. In a joint letter dated March 10, 2016, the Governors of New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont also referenced the Hoosick Falls guidance level in their request for an updated health advisory.

The urgency cannot be overstated. While Newburgh has switched to an alternate source of drinking water, that source will only last for a matter of weeks. When that happens, thousands of residents of the city of Newburgh, through no fault of their own, will be without a reliable source of clean water. Water treatment efforts will cost millions of dollars - a burden that the financially distressed city of Newburgh cannot, should not and must not bear on its own. The people of Newburgh – over one third of whom live in poverty - deserve swift and decisive action.

In addition to immediately releasing updated PFOA and PFOS advisory levels, I ask that the EPA do everything in its power to assist the city of Newburgh and its residents at this time.

Thank you for your attention to this letter.


Sean Patrick Maloney

Member of Congress