Newburgh Rescinds State of Emergency After Chemical Found in Drinking Water

Perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, was found in Silver Stream and Washington Lake

The city manager of Newburgh, New York, has rescinded a state of emergency that took effect Monday after potentially harmful chemicals were found in one of its drinking water sources. 

City Manager Michael G. Ciaravino says perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, was found in Silver Stream and Washington Lake, but the water was deemed safe Tuesday.

Ciaravino said in a statement that the Department of Public Works staff started a pump station at Brown's Pond, opened the tap to the Catskill Aqueduct and completely turned off the water supply to Washington Lake. 

Those steps, the statement said, have made the water safe to drink.  

The water conservation measures implemented Monday, however, will remain in effect for the city. Restrictions in place include: no serving water at restaurants except upon request, no watering lawns, no washing cars and no filling up swimming pools. The full list of restrictions can be found here. 

PFOS is classified as an emerging contaminant of concern -- emerging, the EPA says, because a new source or new pathway to humans has been discovered or a new detection method or treatment technology has been developed. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says some studies have raised concerns about potential developmental, reproductive and other systemic effects of PFOS -- including possible links to the grown of cancerous tumors -- but the agency cautions the studies were limited in scope and some were done only on rodents, so they didn't offer a conclusion for possible effects on humans. 

PFOS chemicals are no longer manufactured in the U.S., but the EPA allows them in a "few, limited, highly technical applications" where no known alternatives are available. 

The EPA's guideline for health advisories on PFOS is 0.2 micrograms per liter. Ciaravino said the PFOS levels found in Silver Stream and Washington Lake were lower than that, the state DEC and Department of Health are still recommending that it be eliminated or reduced below that threshold.

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