NEWBURGH – As the snow started to fall Monday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney gathered at City of Newburgh Fire Department headquarters to talk about trying to ban the toxic white foam used for fighting fires.
The pair is sponsoring national legislation, the PFAS Firefighters Protection Act, which will ban the foam used to put out fires.
“We should not be asking firefighters to take on more risk by the foam that they use or the clothing they wear,” said Gillibrand.
The foam is known to cause cancer and other health problems. The state has a partial ban on the foam, which has been found in the city’s water supply after leaking from the Air National Guard base at New York Stewart International Airport.
“We’ll build on what New York has already done. This nationwide ban would help our firefighters across the country,” said Gillibrand.
If enacted, the legislation is proposed to ban the sale of foam with PFAS chemicals within two years of a possible passage.
“The city is ecstatic. The city has serious water problems, and unfortunately, it might have been avoidable, but that’s the city council, the lawyers and everybody else to figure out,” said F.J. Spignelli, the city’s new fire chief.” “We all used to train with this stuff. There’s no one in the fire service who hasn’t trained with this stuff. It just so happens Stewart is close to the reservoir.”
And Maloney, too, is hopeful this legislation becomes law to help the nation and the state.
“We know the firefighting foam used out at Stewart and by the Defense Department at so many military facilities is the same firefighting foam, used by departments like this one, are the source of this contamination,” said Maloney. “This is a real live issue. Keeping our firefighters safe is really important.”
Newburgh has been using New York City aqueduct water for the last several years with the state footing the bill because the minute the chemicals were discovered in Newburgh’s Washington Lake water supply, it was turned off.