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EPA Delivers Update On Hudson River PCB Cleanup Project

PCBs Not Elevated after Floods
WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas
Dredging equipment positioned along the Hudson River at Ft. Edward.

The Hudson River PCB cleanup project is nearly 75 percent complete as the fourth season of dredging comes to a close. An Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator delivered a progress report while an environmental group is calling on General Electric to clean up additional PCBs. 

EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck says the 2013 dredging season comes to a close in a few days, putting the entire project about a year ahead of schedule.

She refers to the recent World Series win by the Boston Red Sox. She says more than 612,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment were removed from the upper Hudson River during 2013, exceeding the annual goal of 350,000 cubic yards. Enck says, to date, about 1.9 million of the estimated 2.65 million cubic yards of sediment have been removed. General Electric is conducting the cleanup work, with EPA oversight. GE began remediation in 2009 of more than 1.3 million pounds of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, it discharged into the Hudson River between 1947 and 1977 from two manufacturing plants in the towns Fort Edward and Hudson Falls.

In June of 2012, EPA released a report that said PCB concentrations were found to be higher than expected in areas not targeted for cleanup. As to whether EPA would consider pressing for cleanup of an expanded dredging area, Enck replies:

"No. We’re not contemplating addition dredging."

As to whether GE would consider additional dredging, GE Spokesman Mark Behan says:

"No. EPA reaffirmed the scope of this project and is determined that the project as it is currently being conducted and as EPA ordered is entirely protective of human health and the environment."

Ned Sullivan was hoping for a different answer.

"We are disappointed that GE continues to refuse to expand the cleanup to capture and clean up the additional PCBs that lie just outside the area they are dredging."

Sullivan is president of Poughkeepsie-based environmental group Scenic Hudson.

"We continue to have a river that is an American Heritage river in a National Heritage area and yet with this cloud of PCB contamination continuing to hang over it. We are thrilled at the progress we are seeing in GE’s effectiveness in performing the mandated cleanup but we will not have a healthy and restored river until they do the entire job."

And by entire job, he means the area outside the cleanup zone found to contain high PCB concentrations.

Once the dredging concludes, which Enck says should be in about two years, the project continues for another year with habitat restoration.

When dredging resumes in April or May, GE’s Behan says cleanup will resume where it left off.

The cleanup is along 40 miles of the upper portion of the Hudson River.

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