City of Newburgh files lawsuit over contaminated water issue

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NEWBURGH – The City of
Newburgh has filed a federal lawsuit over its contaminated water supply.

The suit, filed in US District Court for the Southern District of New
York on Monday, against 23 defendants that have manufactured and sold
PFAS, or owned and/or operated the Stewart Airport Air National Guard
Base and the airport to clean up the contamination in the city watershed
and pay for the city’s continued supply of clean water until the
cleanup is completed.

The city wants those responsible for the contamination by the chemical
once used in firefighting foam at the Air Guard Base, to clean up the
watershed. The city also wants the defendants to provide residents with
clean water until the contamination is abated, assist in the development
of a comprehensive watershed management program, reimburse the city for
costs that it has incurred from the contamination, and pay the city so
it can provide city water users rebates for contaminated water they purchased.

The rebate issue has been pushed by Mayor Torrance Harvey for several

Newburgh is also asking the court to award it punitive damages against
the manufacturers.

Over two years ago, the city shut down its main water source, Washington
Lake, and has been drawing water from the Catskill Aqueduct with the state
picking up the tag.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has installed a granulated
activated carbon filtration system for future treatment of Washington
Lake water. But, testing by the state on Washington Lake using a similar
carbon filtration system revealed the carbon was less effective for short-chained

The state has committed to filtering PFAS to “non-detect”
levels, but documents to the city do not yet reflect that commitment.

The Catskill Aqueduct will be shut down for repairs for 10 weeks beginning
on October 2, but City Manager Michael Ciaravino said Newburgh will not
use Washington Lake during that period “because of the ongoing contamination
of the drinking watershed, inadequate treatment, and lack of standards.”

Instead, he said the city would use its backup water supply, Brown’s
Pond, which has been determined to be safe to drink, but he warned that
could run short if the Town of New Windsor also uses Brown’s Pond
during the shutdown period.”

Among those entities being sued are the US Air Force, State of New York,
airport operators and manufacturers of the PFAS products.