Source: https://www.newyorkupstate.com, May 3, 2019
Residents were surprised to learn Thursday that the town will shut down its Butterhill Park wells, which it began drawing from just last year, because low levels of toxic chemicals have been found in the water.
Supervisor George Green announced the shutdown during Wednesday’s Town Board meeting.
The wells will be shut down in a few weeks, after the town is able to reactivate its Riley Road water treatment plant and draw water from New York City’s Catskill Aqueduct again.
“We are the latest victim of the use of firefighting foam at Stewart International Airport,” Green said.
The wells, along with the St. Anne’s Drive well, which was not found to be contaminated, have been the primary water source for New Windsor customers since last summer. They were capable of producing about 6.4 million gallons per day, more than twice the average daily amount used. New Windsor has a population of about 27,000.
Green said the levels of PFOS and PFOA found in New Windsor’s water by tests done by the state Department of Health were below both the 70 parts per trillion level considered safe by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and the much-lower 10 parts per trillion considered safe by the New York State Drinking Water Quality Council.
However, Green said he and the Town Board decided to shut down the Butterhill wells to ensure the safety of residents, “out of an abundance of caution.”
PFOS and PFOA, which are used to manufacture firefighting foam, belong to a group of chemicals associated with kidney and testicular cancers, ulcerative colitis, low infant birth weight, high cholesterol and other health problems.
Wednesday was the first time town officials publicly disclosed the PFOS and PFOA contamination. They received notification of it from the health department on April 4.
“We first did independent tests to confirm those results, rather than do a knee-jerk reaction,” said town attorney David Zagon.
The town also consulted with a hydrogeological expert to determine the proper course of action, Zagon said.
On Thursday afternoon, the town posted the test results and other information about the contamination on its web site for the first time.
Still, residents like Keith White, who’s lived in Butterhill Estates for about 20 years, would have liked to hear something from the town a little sooner. He was unaware of the problem until a Times Herald-Record reporter knocked on his door Thursday afternoon.
“Not even something as simple as putting a letter in our mailbox,” White said. “Instead, I have to hear it from a reporter. Now I suppose somebody will say it was not under our control.”
“After we spent all that money (on the Butterhill filtration plant), now we’re going to switch back to what we had before?” White asked rhetorically.
Several other residents in Butterhill who were interviewed Thursday were less critical than White, but many of them had not heard the news either.
One woman, who would only identify herself as Kara, said the aqueduct is preferable to Brown’s Pond, a City of Newburgh backup supply also used by the town in the past. That source sometimes prompted complaints about a fishy smell to the water.
“Every time we switch from the aqueduct, it’s something,” she said.
PFOS and PFOA contamination from firefighting foam forced the City of Newburgh to shut down its main supply of water, Washington Lake, three years ago. The contamination flowed from Recreation Pond at Stewart Air National Guard Base into Silver Stream. Silver Stream flows into Moodna Creek, which flows past Butterhill Park.
Because the levels of PFOS and PFOA in New Windsor’s water are below safety thresholds, the town does not have any plans to provide blood tests for residents at this time.
Tests done as the wells were being prepared for opening did not show any contamination, Green said.
New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, which operates the Catskill Aqueduct, provided the town with technical assistance and $12 million of the $18 million cost to build the Butterhill treatment system.
Green was unsure what the town might do when the DEP is scheduled to take the Catskill Aqueduct out of service later this year and next year for maintenance.