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Officials Demand Investigation Into Chemicals In Newburgh Water Supply

NEWBURGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Questions and concerns were mounting late Monday about a polluted water supply in Newburgh.

As CBS2's Lou Young reported, there is a call for a federal study into chemical contamination of the municipal water source.

In Newburgh, a city of 27,000 on the west bank of the Hudson River in Orange County, a first round of blood tests showed residents with elevated levels of potentially dangerous chemicals possibly linked to contaminated drinking water.

The local congressman said it is time for the feds to step in – even as the mood in Washington shifts toward smaller government.

"This is where the rubber meets the road," said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), "and when you hear these guys in Washington throw around terms like 'deconstruct the administrative state,' I'd like to know what the heck that means when we're talking about the role the EPA plays in testing municipal water supplies."

Maloney announced proposed new legislation as health professionals looked into the water supply on Monday.

The congressman wants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fully funded, and for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do a two-year research study on what levels the fire-retardant chemicals perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) become dangerous to human health.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker warned there are as many as 700 places like Newburgh with compounds in their water.

"I want the CDC to look at this picture nationally," Zucker said.

Locally, the chemicals were used in a firefighting foam used during training exercises at Stewart Air National Guard Base. They are now being found at four times the expected level among Newburgh residents.

Runoff from the air base drains into Lake Washington, the City of Newburgh's water supply. The chemical is in the water and may be in the lake bed as well.

Until the issue is resolved, Newburgh has to get its drinking water from somewhere else.

"We're using New York City's water coming from the Catskills aqueduct," said Newburgh City Manager Michael Ciaravino. "We can no longer rely upon Washington Lake."

The Department of Defense has already agreed to take additional water and soil samples this spring. But money for research is up in the air until budgets for the EPA and the CDC are worked out.

Very high levels of the chemicals in question have been known to cause liver and kidney problems, as well as spikes in cholesterol levels.

Right now, there are no studies that establish a safe level.

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