Information for Communities Impacted by Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
City of Newburgh, Town of Newburgh and the Town of New Windsor
As part of the federal Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Program, the City of Newburgh and other water suppliers serving over 10,000 people are required to test for several potential contaminants, including Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).
In May 2015, the City of Newburgh issued its 2014 Annual Water Quality Report with PFAS contamination identified in Washington Lake. The City subsequently reported these results to EPA as required. All samples were below the EPA's provisional short-term health advisory that was in place at that time. In February 2016, New York State created a Water Quality Rapid Response Team (WQRRT) responsible for investigating contamination across the state. Working with the WQRRT, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the presence of PFAS in March of 2016. Immediately, DEC began to investigate the source of the contamination affecting Newburgh and, with DOH, assisted the City to connect to an alternate water supply.
Identifying the potential threat to its communities, New York State also urged EPA to take vigorous action on the federal level to regulate PFOA and PFOS. In May 2016, the EPA issued a revised health advisory of 70 parts-per-trillion (ppt) for lifetime exposure, by which time the City of Newburgh had already switched to a PFAS-free source of water in coordination with New York State. In August 2020, New York State promulgated Maximum Contaminant Levels for PFOS and PFOA at 10 ppt, which are among the lowest in the U.S.
What's Being Done
New York State has taken proactive and aggressive actions to address water quality issues in the Newburgh area. To date, the state has:
- Swiftly transitioned the City to a clean, alternative drinking water supply called Brown's Pond in early May 2016 and to New York City's Catskill Aqueduct in early June 2016.
- Committed to fund all Catskill Aqueduct water payments to NYC and advanced the first $2.4 million payment to the City of Newburgh on September 14, 2016.
- Committed to fund and constructed a Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) system at the City of Newburgh Lake Filtration Plant to remove PFAS from Washington Lake water, the City's primary water source. Work completed January 2018.
- Funded and constructed upgrades to the City of Newburgh's connection to the Catskill Aqueduct. Work completed December 2016.
- Conducted sampling in potentially affected areas of the Washington Lake, Silver Stream, Beaver Dam Lake and Moodna Creek watersheds, the vicinity of the Stewart International Airport, and Stewart Air National Guard base. These investigations identified Stewart Air National Guard Base as the likely source of PFAS contamination in the area due to the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam.
- Listed Stewart Air National Guard Base as a state Superfund site in August 2016 to hold the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) responsible for full site clean-up.
- Sampled private wells potentially impacted by PFAS contamination in the Washington Lake area, portions of the Town of New Windsor and the Town of Newburgh, and in the vicinity of Beaver Dam Lake.
- Designed, constructed, managed and monitored a temporary GAC treatment system for the Town of New Windsor's Kroll Public Water Supply Well that was shut down by the Town in February 2017 due to presence of PFAS in the water supply. The Kroll Well temporary GAC treatment was placed online in August 2019.
- Designed, constructed, managed and monitored a temporary GAC treatment system for the Town of New Windsor's Butterhill Public Water Supply Wellfield. The wellfield was shut down by the Town in May 2019 due to presence of PFAS in the water supply. The temporary GAC treatment was placed online in November 2019.
- Funded provision of bottled water, municipal water supply extension and connections for private residences in the Towns of Newburgh and New Windsor, with wells impacted by PFAS. Also funding and undertaking the installation, maintenance and monitoring of Point of Entry Treatment (POET) systems in the Beaver Dam Lake area.
- Designed and built a temporary Washington Lake overflow drawdown system along Route 300 involving the mobilization of a 3000 gal/min water pump and treatment system to lower the water level in Lake Washington to 4 feet of freeboard at the Washington Lake dam spillway. Initial DEC pump down effort began in September 2016 and was completed in July 2017. DEC remobilized and restarted the overflow drawdown system in May 2018. Operation of the system was completed in April 2023. Drawdown equipment removal and site restoration work was completed in July 2023.
- Launched a fish sampling program to better understand the extent and impacts of contamination in the watershed.
- Launched an updated source water assessment planning process for the watershed.
- Conducted preliminary engineering studies of the stormwater flows from the identified source areas on the Base to provide data for the design of a treatment system for discharges coming from the site.
- Designed, constructed and operated a temporary pumping system to supply the City of Newburgh, and the Town of New Windsor, reliable potable water from Brown's Pond during the NYCDEP Catskill Aqueduct shutdowns.
DEC and DOH have overseen DoD, the party responsible for the management and operation of Stewart Air National Guard Base, in the development and implementation of the Site Inspection and Expanded Site Inspection of the Stewart Air National Guard Base, and will continue to work with and oversee the DoD through the investigation and remediation process to address contamination from the base.
Based upon contamination impacting Lake Washington, Newburgh's primary water supply source, and neighboring watersheds, the state initiated investigations into the source of the PFAS. In particular, DEC investigated the historic use and storage of PFAS-containing firefighting foam on the Stewart Air National Guard Base and Stewart International Airport to identify potential sources.
Beginning in March 2016, DEC collected surface water samples from Washington Lake and its tributaries. Since that time, the state has conducted extensive sampling of groundwater, surface water, sediment, storm water outfalls, drainage areas, building floor drains, ponds, and culverts to help identify the extent and potential sources of the contamination and to develop appropriate strategies to remediate the pollution. The results of these investigations are found on DecInfoLocator under DEC Site no. 336088 and 336089.
Time Line of New York State's Activities:
A chronological summary of New York State DEC's, DOH's and the New York State Department of Transportation's (DOT's) response activities in the Newburgh area is provided below:
Newburgh Drinking Water Supply
The City of Newburgh's primary drinking water supply is Washington Lake, located in the Towns of New Windsor and Newburgh about one-half mile west of the City's water filtration plant, which is also located in these townships. The City has two back-up water supply options: Brown's Pond and the New York City Catskill Aqueduct Tap located in the Town of New Windsor, adjacent to Brown's Pond.
- 2011 Washington Lake Drinking Watershed Information (PDF)
- Washington Lake Filtration Plant PFOS Treatment & Catskill Aqueduct Tap Connection Fact Sheet (PDF)
New Water Treatment System
The state has funded, designed and constructed a permanent Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) treatment system to filter PFAS out of the City of Newburgh's public water supply Washington Lake. DEC in consultation with state DOH and the Orange County Health Department have completed the design, construction, and startup protocols for this system. On February 9, 2017 four contracts (General, Electrical, Plumbing and HVAC Construction) were executed for the construction of the new GAC treatment system. The City's new 1.2M-gallon above-ground contact tank was put into service on February 17, 2017 allowing for the demolition of the former 1.0M-gallon clear well, and start of the GAC treatment system construction. Construction of the GAC treatment system progressed rapidly. Eighteen 40,000-pound carbon vessels were delivered to the site and set in the new GAC treatment building by mid-July 2017 and the building was completed by mid-October. The GAC system shake-down period began January 5, 2018 using Catskill Aqueduct water to break-in the carbon vessels and refine operating procedures. The GAC treatment system has operated continuously since January of 2018, treating water from the Catskill Aqueduct and Brown's Pond. In the Fall of 2019, all 720,000 pounds of granular activated carbon in the system were replaced with new media.
New York City - Catskill Aqueduct Tap Connection
The City of Newburgh Water Supply System is currently drawing water from an existing New York City Catskill Aqueduct tap. Construction of a permanent piped connection between the Catskill Aqueduct and the City of Newburgh's pump station was completed and became operational at the end of December 2016. A fill-pipe from the Catskill Aqueduct to Brown's Pond was also installed by DEC in the Spring of 2017 which allows the City of Newburgh to fill Brown's Pond when necessary.
- Aqueduct Tap Connection Drawing: Catskill Tap Extension to Brown's Pond Raw Water Pump Station (PDF)
- Aqueduct Tap Connection Image: Proposed Vaults and Pipeline At Brown's Pond (PDF)
Washington Lake Temporary Overflow Drawdown System
Starting in 2015, water levels in Washington Lake rose following the switch of the City of Newburgh's Water Supply from the lake to the Catskill Aqueduct creating a potential threat to the lake's dam and surrounding watersheds. In order to maintain the integrity of the dam structure, the state funded the design and construction of a temporary overflow drawdown system to control lake levels. A Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) treatment system was used to treat all water pumped from Washington Lake to minimize the potential for release of PFAS-contaminated water to Silver Stream. Water from the lake was pumped through a series of 10-foot diameter vertical tanks containing GAC prior to being discharged to Silver Stream and the surrounding watershed. Operations to drawdown the lake began September 20, 2016 and were suspended in early December 2016 when the system had to be shut down and winterized. Operations resumed in May 2017 and continued until the end of July 2017. The overflow drawdown system was remobilized in May 2018 and began pumping down the lake in July 2018.
This temporary overflow drawdown system was not designed for long-term use or to be part of the necessary cleanup work to address the source of contamination. As a result of the city of Newburgh's recent improvements to the Washington Lake dam spillway and the continued closure of the Silver Stream diversion gate to Washington Lake, DEC determined the temporary overflow drawdown system is no longer necessary to control lake water levels and protect city infrastructure. DEC will be removing the temporary Washington Lake overflow drawdown system beginning in April 2023, and continue into summer. During its time in operation, the overflow drawdown system processed approximately 2.5 billion gallons of lake water.
Private Water Supply Response Actions
Where contaminants are detected in private wells, DEC provided bottled water as an interim measure, and installed point of entry treatment (POET) systems or funded extensions and completed connections to the municipal water supply as long-term solutions.
Private Well Sampling
DOH has sampled the drinking water wells of a number of homeowners and businesses in the towns of Newburgh, New Windsor and Cornwall which are not connected to a municipal water supply.
Beaver Dam Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District
The Beaver Dam Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District encompasses almost 800 homes, approximately 650 of which utilize private groundwater wells for their drinking water. Surface water samples collected within the watershed upstream of Beaver Dam Lake contained concentrations of PFAS slightly above the EPA Health Advisory Level. Although Beaver Dam Lake surface water is not used as a source of drinking water, private drinking water wells within the area were sampled by DOH. To date, PFAS have not been detected in most private wells in the Beaver Dam Lake area. Where there were detections of PFAS in private drinking water well samples, they occurred at levels significantly below the EPA Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion. Once identified, DEC funded the provision of bottled water and Point of Entry Treatment (POET) systems to impacted residences. DEC is currently monitoring and maintaining the installed POET systems.
- Beaver Dam Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District Perfluorinated Compound Sampling Update Fact Sheet (PDF)
Source Areas and Responsible Parties
On August 12, 2016, DEC determined that the Stewart Air National Guard Base is a source of PFAS to the watershed and DEC and DOH listed the base area as a Class 2 State Superfund site, identifying the U.S. Department of Defense as a potentially responsible party for the contamination detected in the area and in the City of Newburgh's public drinking water supply. The primary source area is the Stewart Air National Guard Base - Site No. 336089
Investigations to identify additional potential sources and responsible parties are ongoing.
DEC and DOH found elevated levels of PFAS, mainly perfluorooctane sulfonate acid (PFOS), in certain fish species, and DOH has issued a "catch and release" advisory for select water bodies to ensure that residents do not consume PFAS-contaminated fish. DOH recommends that anglers practice "catch and release" only from the following waters until further notice:
Newburgh Beaver Dam Lake
Lockwood Basin/ Masterson Park Pond
Stream from Stewart State Forest to Beaver Dam Lake
For questions specific to Newburgh, please contact the DEC Press Office:
- Phone number - (518) 402-8000
- E-mail - [email protected]
For more information, contact the New York State Water Quality Hotline at 1-800-801-8092.
- DECinfo Locator - map-based way to easily access documents pertaining to water and clean-up locations in the area
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website
- New York State Department of Health (DOH) website
- New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) website
Public meetings were held in the City of Newburgh on June 20, 2016, September 19, 2016, October 25, 2016, and December 5, 2016 to present the findings of the state's investigations, discuss planned actions, and to hear the concerns of the community. An additional meeting was held February 6, 2017 to give an update on Beaver Dam Lake. DEC and DOH have attended City Council meetings on November 27, 2017 and January 8, 2018, and hosted an Availability Session at the City of Newburgh Activities Center on February 5, 2018.