Newburgh, N.Y. (July 24, 2017) -- The New York State Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation today announced with Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney the preliminary results of an ongoing study to assess potential perfluorinated compound (PFCs) contamination in fish in the Newburgh area. The study found elevated levels of PFCs, 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 PFC-contaminated fish. This advisory applies to recreational fishing only, as no commercial fishing is conducted in any of the impacted waterbodies, and is in addition to warning signs previously posted by the City around Washington Lake.
As part of the state's ongoing investigation into the extent of PFOS contamination in the Newburgh area, DEC and DOH staff sampled fish from eight popular lakes, ponds and streams used for recreational fishing. Sampling at each site included one or more sportfish species as well as a minnow species to evaluate impacts to the ecological food chain. Specifically, DEC analyzed edible portions of the fish for PFCs, including PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
General Statewide Advice
Currently, for New York State fresh waters without specific fish consumption advisories, DOH has general advice to eat no more than four meals per month of sportfish. This general advice currently applies to most waterbodies in the Newburgh area, and other parts of the state, including the Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh areas where DEC also conducted this fish survey. For more information visit the DOH fish consumption advisories (link leaves DEC's website.)
Catch and Release Advisory for Select Waterbodies
In addition to the general statewide advisory, and based on the current data generated from these ongoing surveys of 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
Elevated concentrations of PFOS were found in the fish fillets collected from the following waterbodies: Beaverdam Lake, Lockwood Basin/Masterson Park Pond, Moodna Creek, Recreation Pond, Stream from Stewart State Forest to Beaverdam Lake, and Washington Lake. Because Silver Stream is interconnected to some of the areas tested, DOH is including this waterway in the catch and release recommendation.
"Fishing is critical to the outdoor recreation economy in the state and it's clear from our research that the Department of Defense must move more quickly to clean up their mess in the Newburgh area," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Their continued recalcitrance to advance priority actions to eliminate sources of contamination in these waterbodies must end, and I am formally demanding they immediately take action to address contamination coming from Recreation Pond. We commend Congressman Maloney for pushing the federal government to act"
"Aggressively investigating the full extent of PFC contamination and its potential impact on public health continues to be our top priority," said DOH Commissioner Howard Zucker. "Whether it's the water we drink, or the fish that we catch, residents can be assured that the Department of Health is taking actions to protect New Yorkers." In the absence of federal guidelines regarding PFOS levels in fish, DOH compared the levels observed in Newburgh to specific advisory levels set for Michigan and Minnesota, as well as other available sources of relevant health information that informed the decision to issue a catch and release advisory for these waters. To inform anglers of the advisory, DOH is working collaboratively with local officials to post signage in these areas in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.
DEC is continuing to sample fish from waters in the Newburgh area for PFCs, and the resulting new information will be considered along with the currently available information to determine whether future DOH advisories will change.
Expanded Study of PFCs in Fish
The state's recent study demonstrates that PFOS bioaccumulates in fish species to a greater extent than PFOA. Based on ongoing data generated by the state's Water Quality Rapid Response Team and DEC's survey of likely users of PFCs, DEC and DOH are identifying additional priority sites to conduct fish sampling. This expanded study will be used to guide future fish consumption recommendations in other waterbodies, and advance the state's understanding of how fish and other organisms are being exposed to these chemicals. To bolster the state's capacity to conduct these analyses, DEC will upgrade the state's Hale Creek Analytical Laboratory in Gloversville to test for PFCs and more quickly process samples.
DEC Demands Action from DOD
Through the state's efforts to hold the U.S Department of Defense (DOD) accountable for the contamination at Stewart Air National Guard Base, the state has required a full site investigation be conducted to identify the nature and extent of the contamination. Recently, in response to DEC's request for Interim Remedial Measures to address already identified sources of contamination, DOD has refused to take action.
In particular, DOD did not agree to DEC's request for specific measures to eliminate PFC discharges from Recreation Pond, prolonging the impacts of PFOS on area waterways. DEC has now issued a formal demand letter to DOD directing them to immediately agree to address contamination coming from the pond. If DOD continues to refuse, the state will step in to conduct the work and seek to recover the costs. To date the state has implemented nearly all of the protective measures in the Newburgh area and has yet to recover any costs from DOD.
For more information about PFCs in Newburgh: