The Campaign for Water Protection held a forum Saturday July 22, 2017 to raise awareness about the contamination affecting the city of Newburgh, NY water supply. Keynote speaker retired Marine Jerry Ensminger spoke about his ongoing fight with the Department of Defense (DOD) over water contamination at Camp Lejeune, where he was stationed.
“Our nation’s largest polluter is not Dow Chemical. It’s not Monsanto. It’s not DuPont. It’s not Exxon Mobil. It is the United States Department of Defense,” said Ensminger. “The U.S. Department of Defense is our nation’s largest polluter. The DOD have more superfund sites . . . [and some of the worst] contamination sites in our country.”
Ensminger lost his nine-year-old daughter from water contamination at Camp Lejeune. "The Department of Navy and Marine Corps tried to cover it up," said Ensminger. Ensminger’s 20 year campaign against the DOD resulted in the 2012 Janey Ensminger Act, that mandates medical care be given to those affected by exposure from water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
Jerry Ensminger is a hero to the one million people who have been affected by the water contamination. Ensminger and his group, The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten was instrumental in winning a $2.2+ billion dollar settlement from the U.S. Federal Government for those impacted by the Camp Lejeune toxic water contamination.
One in Ten Americans Live Within Ten Miles of a Contaminated Military Site. Stewart Air National Guard Base is one of those sites.
Last year, the city of Newburgh’s main reservoir was turned off after high levels of the carcinogen PFOS was detected in the water supply. Newburgh residents were tested to their exposure to the cancer-causing chemical. The state found that 370 residents who submitted to the tests had levels three times the national average of PFOS and five other chemicals.
The fact that PFOS was discovered in the city of Newburgh’s drinking water is a terrifying reality for many who have been drinking contaminated water for decades. Advocates are concerned, with good reason. The fact is that PFOS chemicals are still leaching into the lake that provides residents with drinking water. The clean up will be costly and the problem has not been resolved.
“The federal government has a responsibility -- they should accept the fact that they are culpable for what has happened here and they should do the right thing ... We [must] protect and preserve our most important element resource which is our water, it’s an inalienable right and we have a responsibility to ensure that our citizens are drinking clean water," said Assemblyman Frank Skartados.
How did this happen?
State officials said the contamination came from pollutants that leached into the water supply at the Stewart Air National Guard Base. The air base and Department of Defense are responsible for the contamination and need to clean it up. Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney is introducing legislation to hold the Department of Defense accountable for the removal of PFOS and PFOA from Newburgh's water.
Ensminger’s message to residents now fighting for clean water is that, "Nobody is going to fight their battle for them. They’re going to have to fight it themselves and they need to get organized, and they do not need to accept ‘no’ for an answer and to get their politicians involved.”
The award winning documentary, SemperFi: Always Faithful was shown at the forum chronicling Marine, Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger’s quest to understand the reasons for his daughter’s early death. Ensminger found the courage and conviction to go up against the organization to which he had pledged to be semper fidelis, or “always faithful.”
What to do?
If you live or have lived in Newburgh, NY and have not yet been tested for PFOS, you need to do so immediately. Contact New York State’s Board of Health (BOH) at 518-402-7950 or email at BEOE@health.ny.gov and get tested.
What’s really upsetting is that affected persons have no way of knowing what this will mean for their health. Cancer? Immune deficiencies? The future is unknown.
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