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Groups Say Hudson PCB Cleanup Falls Short

After years of dredging, Hudson River sediment still is contaminated with PCBs. (Peretz Partensky/Wikimedia Commons)
After years of dredging, Hudson River sediment still is contaminated with PCBs. (Peretz Partensky/Wikimedia Commons)
July 19, 2017

NEW YORK - The cleanup isn't over until human health is protected. That's the message environmental groups want the Environmental Protection Agency to hear about General Electric's remediation of the Hudson River.

The groups are to hold a public workshop and rally this evening in Saratoga Springs, where the EPA is holding what it calls a public information meeting. The agency wants to declare that GE's cleanup of toxic PCBs it dumped into the river more than 30 years ago has been a success. However, according to Hayley Carlock, environmental advocacy director of the group Scenic Hudson, the extent of damage to the river was far worse than the assessment on which the cleanup agreement was based.

"The goals of the project are not going to be reached anytime near the time frames that EPA had set forth," she said, "which, when push comes to shove, means that more needs to be done."

The EPA recently released a draft of its second Five Year Review on the Hudson River Superfund Cleanup, and is accepting public comments on the review through Sept. 1.

The EPA is aware that ending the cleanup now would leave two to four-times more PCBs in the river than expected, but Carlock said the agency believes that over several decades, the river itself will take care of the rest.

"EPA says that eventually, it will be protective of human health and the environment," she said, "which essentially would let GE off the hook for doing any further cleanup in the Hudson River."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New York's Department of Environmental Conservation have called for more remediation.

Carlock said that if the river still is polluted, the fact that GE has completed the dredging ordered by the original consent decree doesn't mean the job is finished.

"There are re-openers within the consent decree that allow EPA to try to compel GE to conduct additional cleanup until such a time as the remedy is protective," she said.

The EPA is required to continue reviewing PCB levels in the Hudson until it determines that human health is protected.

More information is online at scenichudson.org/pcbs.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY