News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.
Tests results of the water at a Putnam Valley residential community and summer camp have revealed elevated levels of two PFAS chemicals.
Last month, the Board of Directors at Floradan Estates sent two notices to residents, co-signed by their water operator CEMCO and the Putnam County Department of Health. One notice said perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) were found in the Floradan residential drinking water at levels above New York State’s threshold of 10 parts per trillion (ppt).
Levels of PFOA registered 17.7 ppt and PFOS was at 19.7 ppt. The other notice for the camp cited PFOA levels at 13.1 ppt.
Both notices said the water continues to be acceptable for all uses and that Floradan is working on a strict timetable to reduce levels to comply with the state standard.
A Department of Health statement also confirmed that Floradan’s wells are tested quarterly and the results are reviewed by the department. Floradan submitted plans to upgrade the water supply for treatment last month, which are now under review.
The next water supply sampling at Floradan Estates will be no later than Mar. 31.
Former Putnam Valley Supervisor Sam Oliverio, who lived at Floradan Estates from 1984 to 1995, said the water was historically untainted.
“They have three or four separate wells and all the time I was there the water was tested and always came back pristine,” Oliverio said.
The sampling at Floradan was learned by Examiner Media following news that the Putnam Valley Central School District filed a lawsuit last month alleging more than 20 major chemical companies contaminated the elementary school’s drinking water. The school district is suing for the cost of installing a new carbon filtration system that cost more than $100,000 and for expenses associated with the system’s ongoing maintenance that includes replacing the spent carbon and additional testing.
The litigation also raised questions about possible contamination in nearby community wells.
Because PFAS have been used in firefighting foams for decades, many states, including New York, passed legislation to phase in a ban on using fire suppressants made of PFAS. Whether used or stored, the hazardous chemicals have been known to seep through the ground and into the water table.
The Putnam Valley Fire Department at 12 Canopus Hollow Rd. is 4,662 feet from the elementary school and a mile-and-a-half from Floradan Estates, which has 98 homes and a summer camp at the same location.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data search, the last groundwater test at Floradan was in October for water serving about 400 people.
Tests done in 2020 for Putnam Valley Elementary School showed the school’s drinking water contained levels of PFAS, known as “forever chemicals” linked to cancer and several other diseases.
In 2020, New York State lowered the allowed maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for PFAS from 70 parts per trillion (ppt) to 10 ppt.
The school’s water sampling results showed that there was between 16.6 and 23.3 parts per trillion for PFOA and between 22.6 and 38.8 parts per trillion for PFOS.
Among the many issues raised by the lawsuit was how in 2020 information about the school’s contaminated well was shared with the local community.
A statement issued last week to Examiner Media by the county Department of Health stated that the agency works collaboratively “with the certified water operator to initiate an appropriate action plan…and one of the first steps is to activate a public notification system that will alert the affected community to the existing concerns.”
The public notification information system the Department of Health referred to and how it works has yet to be confirmed.
Oliverio, who served as Putnam Valley supervisor in 2020, said the town was aware of the chemicals when they were first detected in the school’s drinking water because both Oliverio and Superintendent of Schools’ Dr. Jeremy Luft exchanged multiple e-mails and phone calls about the issue.
“Dr. Luft called asking if the town had tested their water,” Oliverio recalled. “We did test our water and found a very minute amount of the chemicals, so much so that it really didn’t register.”
The town had been dealing with another water problem caused by road salt runoff that raised bacteria levels in the wells supplying Town Hall and nearby buildings. The town has since built a storage shed to control road salt runoff.
Oliverio, who currently serves on the Putnam Valley Board of Education, said the town approved the option of joining the school district’s lawsuit against 23 chemical companies in 2021, but the Town Board ultimately declined to get involved.