On September 20, 2016, the NYS Department of Health held a public meeting in Newburgh, NY to discuss solutions for dealing with the water supply, which has been contaminated with the highly toxic chemical Perflurooctane Sulfonate (PFOS). There are 1500 members of 1199SEIU in Newburgh, and thousands of their patients, family and friends.
Written testimony of Lydia Bachman, 1199SEIU member at St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh.
Good evening. I’m here tonight as an area resident, a mother of a young son, a healthcare worker at St. Luke’s Cornwall, and a member of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. There is a growing recognition within organized labor and among working people that environmental deterioration affects our communities disproportionately. As 1199 members this hits close to our hearts and minds -- we are frontline healthcare workers dedicated to saving lives, healing and promoting wellness. We know that environmental health is key to achieving those goals. For us, protecting the environment is a primary public health issue.
Newburgh is home to more than fifteen hundred 1199 members and we are concerned for the health of our community. I’ve cared for many patients over the years. More than a few have suffered with health problems that are likely linked to environmental factors.
I think that biomonitoring is an important step in understanding the health implications of the water contamination crisis we have here, but I urge that the biomonitoring program must include free blood testing for all Newburgh citizens. This is what was done in Hoosick Falls --- the residents of Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh were exposed to a similar toxic chemical (PFOA), and the Department has made blood testing available in those communities. We in Newburgh deserve no less.
It’s also critical that the Department of Environmental Conservation acts now to clean up Stewart Air National Guard Base and continue to investigate the site. And, furthermore, a panel of experts on water contamination who can develop guidelines should be created. The results of their work should be used for our benefit in Newburgh, and also for communities across the state facing similar crises.
1199SEIU healthcare workers have always been committed to advocating for the health of our communities, including defending and protecting clean drinking water. Today, we are increasingly aware of the challenges we face, and are renewing and fortifying our commitment, standing ready to work in every way possible to protect our water --- and our air and our land. I do not have to tell you that water is matter of survival and without it, we do not exist. We must take this situation in our community very seriously.