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New York AG to EPA: Hudson Cleanup Incomplete

State officials say General Electric's $1.6 billion cleanup of the Hudson River has not lowered PCBs to safe levels. (Peretz Partensky/Wikimedia Commons)
State officials say General Electric's $1.6 billion cleanup of the Hudson River has not lowered PCBs to safe levels. (Peretz Partensky/Wikimedia Commons)
September 21, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. - State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has told the Environmental Protection Agency that it cannot legally certify that General Electric has completed its cleanup of PCBs in the Hudson River.

In a letter to the EPA regional administrator, Schneiderman said the agency hasn't proved that the cleanup is working and should delay issuing GE a "certificate of completion."

Althea Mullarkey, special projects and public policy analyst for the group Scenic Hudson, said the EPA appears to be measuring success by how many tons of contaminated sediment have been removed.

"The attorney general is bringing it back to the agreements that were made in 2002," she said, "and it was not about engineering, it was about environmental goals for people and for the river."

The attorney general pointed out that in fish, concentrations of PCBs, a known carcinogen, are still 600 percent higher than levels required by the legally binding cleanup plan.

Spanning 200 miles from north of Albany to New York City, the Hudson River is the nation's largest Superfund site. Mullarky noted that over the course of several decades, GE factories dumped enough PCBs into the river to fill eight Olympic-sized swimming pools.

"So, if there's a correlation between how sick the fish are and how much they dumped, and the fish are still sick," she said, "it means they have to get more out."

Hudson River fish are still considered unsafe to eat.

New York state is part of the team conducting a five-year review of the cleanup, but cannot prevent the project from being declared complete. Mullarkey said only the EPA can do that.

"If the remedy is not protective of human health and the environment," she said, "then EPA has clear duties and responsibilities to make it happen."

Ending the cleanup before health and safety goals have been reached, she said, could open the doors for new litigation to force GE to complete the job.

More information is online here.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY