The New York State Department of Health announced this week that Westhampton residents whose wells were contaminated with the compound PFOS from firefighting foam used at Gabreski Airport will be eligible for biomonitoring to determine if their health has been affected by the exposure.
New York State designated the airport as a state Superfund site in October 2016, after PFOS was added to the state’s list of hazardous substances that qualify for inclusion in the State Superfund program in April of last year.
The Department of Health’s announcement comes after State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and State Senator Kenneth LaValle contacted the local media Monday to share letters they’d sent to the Department of Health criticizing “the State Department of Health’s lack of response to their request for a biomonitoring/blood testing protocol for PFOS.”
The legislators had originally requested biomonitoring and blood testing in a letter to the NYS Department of Health on Nov. 17, 2016.
When asked for comment Tuesday, Department of Health or Department Spokesperson J.P. O’Hare said that “As with any instance of drinking water contamination, New York State has implemented a comprehensive response plan to address PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) in private wells throughout Westhampton Beach.”
“Any residents with private wells who may have been impacted by the contamination will have the option to participate in the state’s biomonitoring program for free. More details about this program will be released shortly,” he added.
Suffolk County collected samples of 66 private drinking water wells from Westhampton Beach in July 2016 and found several of them to be contaminated. The state has been working with Suffolk County and the Suffolk County Water Authority to provide information and bottled water to residents, and to coordinate connection to public water, and the state has requested that the U.S. Department of Defense, which has been named as the potentially responsible party for the contamination, finance the connections.
State representatives LaValle and Thiele issued a joint response to the biomonitoring announcement on Tuesday.
“We were contacted by the State Department of Health today who informed us that biomonitoring will now be offered to Westhampton Beach residents who have had contaminated wells,” they said. “We are currently awaiting specific details on the testing, and will continue to keep the pressure on the Department for the information. Our constituents have a right to know about the level of their exposure to PFOS.”
The legislators said they will keep residents apprised of the testing details as they are made available from the state Department of Health.