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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Announces Key Review For Hudson River Cleanup

Dredging of the Hudson River

The EPA will undertake a second five-year review of GE’s cleanup of PCBs from the Hudson River. Dredging on a 40-mile stretch between Fort Edward and Troy, New York was finished this fall. Now, General Electric will remain on the river for monitoring and habitat restoration work.

As the massive Superfund project turns a corner, EPA spokeswoman Larisa Romanowski says these five-year reviews will continue into the future.

“Really the purpose of this review, which is required under the Superfund law every five years, is just to ensure the cleanup is working as intended, and that it will be protective of human health and the environment,” said Romanowski.

General Electric spokesman Mark Behan said the company looking forward to the review.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far on the Hudson. We share the goal of a cleaner Hudson and will continue to do our part in cooperation with local communities and the federal and state agencies.”

And those agencies will be paying close attention. Kathryn Jahn is Case Manager for the U.S. Department of Interior for the Hudson River Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration.

“We appreciate EPA’s commitment to ensuring all parties remain informed throughout the second five-year review process,” said Jahn.

The Department of Interior, along with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is conducting a natural resource damage assessment to determine the full effect of the PCB contamination on the environment.

Jahn said the Trustees are looking forward to providing input on analysis of data, coordinating preparation of the second five-year report, and reviewing and commenting on the remedial action report.

Non-profit environmental organizations like Scenic Hudson also want to weigh in. Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan says the group is working to secure expertise and share its opinion with EPA.

Sullivan has been critical of GE’s characterization of the project as a success and has joined others in blasting the closure of a dewatering facility used in the dredging work in Fort Edward. He also criticized EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck’s January letter in the Albany Times Union in which she praised the work done by GE so far.

In her letter, Enck acknowledged the groups pushing for further dredging on Hudson, including in the Champlain navigational canal, but said, “the conditions under which EPA could require more dredging have not been met.” She said EPA will continue to coordinate with the Trustees as the state and federal agencies continue their assessment of the river.

Sullivan says no organization should claim the cleanup is successful until the next five-year review is completed.

“The cleanup has not been certified as complete and successful. And the five-year review is intended to answer the question with all parties at the table, whether in fact the cleanup is a success.”

EPA says members of the public can submit comments during the review process online. A series of workshops will be held with the Hudson River Community Advisory Group, where the cleanup will be discussed in further detail.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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