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New York U.S. Lawmakers Urge Feds To Expand Hudson River Cleanup

Dredging of the Hudson River

Democratic Congressional representatives from districts surrounding the Hudson River have written to federal authorities asking for an expanded assessment of the river. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports the letter comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to soon release a second five-year review of the massive Superfund cleanup.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representatives Sean Patrick Maloney, Nita Lowey, Eliot Engel, and Paul Tonko this week asked U.S. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to expand the agency’s assessment over the PCB cleanup work performed by General Electric.

The joint-letter argues that additional data collected and shared with EPA “clearly shows the Hudson River remedy is not protective of human health and the environment.”

Capital District Congressman Paul Tonko said the argument he and his colleagues are trying to make is simple.

“We just want to make certain that the assessment on compliance is done with all the information at our fingertips,” said Tonko.  

EPA is conducting its second mandated five-year review of the Superfund project. G.E. wrapped up dredging operations in 2015.

The company has maintained that no further dredging work is needed in the 40-mile stretch from Fort Edward to Troy, as G.E. spokesman Mark Behan has told WAMC.

“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,” said Behan.

But the lawmakers write that though new data suggests a larger contamination than cleanup work was originally prescribed for 15 years ago, the scope of the cleanup was never expanded.

Tonko said in signing onto the letter he is not looking for a “pre-determined outcome.”

“It’s rather making certain that all of the review efforts that can take into account science and facts and present them to the deciding panel here, enabling them to understand if the letter and spirit of the report, the agreement has indeed been honored,” said Tonko.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and environmental nonprofits have also asked for more cleanup work.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos in December wrote that his agency determined that high concentrations of PCBs harmful to humans and the environment remain in fish in portions of the river. 

The state is also asking the federal government to explore dredging from Troy to New York City.

EPA said in a brief statement that it “has received the correspondence from the New York congressional delegation and will be responding.”

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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