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Gillibrand Asks EPA For Additional Hudson River Dredging

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
?No other state is poised to lead in the high-tech economy of the future like New York.? - Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter Tuesday to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency saying General Electric’s dredging of the upper Hudson River is not complete.

In her letter, the Senator, who serves on the Environment and Public Works committee, told EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that “PCB hotspots continue to remain in the Hudson River. The remaining contamination will result in continued injury to natural resources and slow the economic and ecological recovery of the river.”

Gillibrand wrote there’s a need to dredge the Champlain Navigational Canal, though the original PCB cleanup agreement between GE and EPA did not include the Champlain Canal.

On Friday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote to EPA urging the agency to remain on the river until further testing is completed to ensure the PCB contaminants are being removed effectively.

The two prominent politicians’ letters fall in line with recent actions from New York State DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos and Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who also called for additional cleanup.

The politicians echo sentiments by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, both federal Trustees for the Hudson River Superfund site.

Environmental groups like Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson are praising the increased pressure for additional PCB removal.

GE wrapped up its dredging work last fall and a dewatering facility has been shut down.

Scenic Hudson’s Ned Sullivan criticized EPA for allowing the dismantling.

“GE should not have removed its cleanup equipment and EPA should not have allowed the decommissioning because more work is needed. EPA acted prematurely because it is currently conducting a 5-year review under Federal law and the agency is determining whether the cleanup goals were met,” said Sullivan.

In an email, spokeswoman Larisa Romanowski said EPA is reviewing the letters and will consider them as it conducts its 5-year review. Of Gillibrand’s recent letter, she writes “EPA shares the Senator’s commitment to cleaning up the Hudson River and will respond directly to the Senator’s letter.”

She continues, “The EPA can’t do navigational dredging under the Superfund program, but the State of New York has the opportunity to get navigational dredging if they pursue dredging the Champlain Canal.”

GE will remain on the river for continued monitoring and maintains it has fulfilled its commitment as mandated by EPA. Spokesman Mark Behan…

“Since dredging was completed PCB levels in upper Hudson have already shown significant declines, EPA has declared the project a success, and said no additional dredging was necessary.”

Addressing concerns from state leaders, Behan said the state “approved, oversaw, and was involved in every major decision” about the cleanup project.

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