Six months ago the municipal water supply for the city of Newburgh, New York, was shut down due to the detection of a toxic chemical in the water. Now, residents are being encouraged to have blood tests done in order to determine their level of exposure to the chemical, which has been linked to cancer and thyroid problems, along with other dangerous medical conditions.
Perfluorooctane sulfonate, also known as PFOS, is a chemical found in firefighting foam. Officials believe the toxin made its way from Stewart Air National Guard Base to Washington Lake, the reservoir used for Newburgh’s tap water. In May, when the water supply was switched, the EPA had set a limit for PFOS of 70 parts per trillion. The water going to Newburgh was found to have a PFOS reading of 140-170 parts per trillion.
Blood tests are being administered in seven clinics throughout the city for free until November 19. With these blood tests, health officials are looking to compare the level of exposure among residents. The tests will not determine any illnesses or increased risk of illness (such as cancer) due to the exposure. The city, located about an hour north of New York City, has seen its share of problems over the years. Once a booming industrial location on the Hudson River, the city is now known for its abandoned buildings, crime, and poverty. Officials are concerned about reaching all the city’s 28,000 residents, many of whom do not speak English.
Blood tests were also given to residents earlier this year in towns located further north in Rensselaer County, New York. In those cases, a plastics plant is thought to be responsible for PFOA (a chemical similar to PFOS) contamination of the water. Results showed some residents had the chemical levels in their blood up to 500 times the national average.
In Newburgh, the state Health Department is working alongside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to monitor the situation. Unfortunately, residents will have to wait and see if the toxic contamination will affect their health. If you or someone you know has been affected by water contamination and diagnosed with an illness as a result, please call the knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., today.