How safe is Putnam Valley's drinking water?

How safe is Putnam Valley's drinking water?

Over the last few weeks, The Examiner News has been doing a great job raising awareness about drinking water quality issues in Putnam Valley.

The first story, published on January 10, 2023, detailed a lawsuit that the town school district filed against 23 chemical companies in December. The lawsuit contends that in 2020, during routine testing, the district found that the elementary school's water supply was contaminated with perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Often referred to as "forever chemicals" because they remain in the environment, PFAS compounds have been linked to cancer.

You can read the lawsuit here:

In a follow-up story, The Examiner revealed that PFAS contaminants had also been discovered in the water at nearby Floradan Estates and a residential camp located in that community. And water testing of Glenmar Gardens from 2021 indicates some presence of PFAS substances in the water there, though it did not exceed NYS safety standards.

As if these water quality issues were not concerning enough, The Examiner published a story on February 1st describing an illegal dumping situation that occurred at the Fire Department location on Oscawana Lake Road in 2016. Since then, according to that story, 83 tons of asbestos waste and 4,236 tons of contaminated soils have had to be removed, under the supervision of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Again, any seepage into the water table could create problems for nearby homes with private wells. In a letter to the editor of The Examiner, Putnam Valley resident Patty Villanova, raises important questions about how this dumping has been handled by the town and the county.

Here is a map showing where elevated PFAS levels have been found so far in Putnam Valley:

At the town board meeting on January 25th, Lake Peekskill resident Michael Zagarell expressed concern that if the aquifer is contaminated, the result could be catastrophic. He urged the town to become more proactive in representing homeowners on this issue. "If those wells in Lake Peekskill become contaminated, we have a big problem because those houses would lose a huge amount of value and it seems to me that the town will lose a huge tax base," he said. Town Supervisor Jacqueline Annabi explained that water quality is the responsibility of Putnam County's Board of Health. While she said the town had tested the municipal water system that supplies town hall and about 40 nearby homes, the town could not require owners of private wells to do any testing.

Testing the town's water system does little to help most homeowners and businesses in Putnam Valley. According to the town's last comprehensive plan in 2007,  only about 3% of them have access to the public water supply.  Since these issues began surfacing, it appears that neither the town nor the county have notified homeowners or businesses whose private wells might be affected. They have also not provided information to residents about water testing companies they might contact or tried to negotiate a group discount. The town could also choose to test the well at the new fire department building site, which is about halfway between the elementary school and town hall and on land already known to have other contamination. When pressed by Zagarell to be more proactive, Supervisor Annabi agreed to ask the town counsel what steps, if any, they could legally pursue on behalf of residents.

The next town board meeting is on Wednesday, Feb. 15th at 6pm. Residents who want to voice their concerns directly to the board can do so in the public comment period which comes at the end of each monthly meeting.

Homeowners who want to test for the PFAS and other contaminants found at the elementary school will discover that it is much more expensive and complicated than a typical water test and could cost a homeowner at least $600.

We're lucky to have a news organization choosing to devote precious reporting resources to these stories. The Examiner is a nonprofit news site, so you can access their content for free. But, if you can, it's even better to help them out by becoming a member.