The city’s primary supply, Washington Lake, has been offline for two years
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 months.
“I have been saying on the record that it was not just enough for parties that were responsible for contamination by PFOS in our water source and watershed, it is also significant for us to address the human element and the damage it has done to human beings,” Harvey said.
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 PFAS.
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.