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DEC Seeks Additional Sampling On Upper Hudson River

Dredging of the Hudson River

One year ago, General Electric wrapped up its dredging of a 40-mile stretch of the Hudson River from Fort Edward to Troy.

GE maintains that it has targeted all PCB hotspots identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. GE 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.”

But over the past several months, local officials have been asking EPA to remain on the river.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos has written a letter to EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck, requesting EPA conduct additional sediment sampling for PCBs.

Seggos writes, "The clock is ticking. EPA's work is not done and its unwillingness to require GE to perform adequate sediment sampling undermines the five-year review process underway.”

Currently, EPA is conducting a mandatory five-year-review of the massive Superfund cleanup project.

To determine the cleanup’s effectiveness, DEC says it has identified the need to expand the analysis of sediments by over 1,400 samples in areas that were and were not dredged. EPA plans to collect 375 samples.

Seggos continues, “If EPA fails to act, DEC is ready to step in. And until such sampling occurs, the EPA must not deem the remediation project complete."

EPA spokeswoman Larisa Romanowski said in an email the 375 samples “will give an accurate picture of how the river is recovering.”

She explains the “cleanup removed more than 2.75 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment containing 310,000 pounds of toxic PCBS.”

EPA says it will respond with greater detail after it reviews the letter from Commissioner Seggos.

In September, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who serves on the Environment and Public Works committee, wrote to U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, saying “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.”

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, as well as several local officials have called for EPA and GE to remain on the river until it is determined that the PCB removal has been successful. 

A dewatering facility used by GE in the cleanup process has already been dismantled. The move was criticized by environmental groups. Scenic Hudson president Ned Sullivan….

“GE should not have removed its cleanup equipment, EPA should not have allowed the decommissioning. Because more work is needed,” said Sullivan.

There’s also a call to expand dredging into the Champlain Canal. The navigational canal was not part of the original cleanup plan.

DEC asks that additional sampling be completed no later than the spring of 2017 and that it will undertake the analysis of additional samples if EPA does not.

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