Dutchess County Exec To EPA: Hudson River PCB Cleanup Is Incomplete

Nov 28, 2018

The Dutchess County executive is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to refrain from deeming the upper Hudson River PCB cleanup project complete. General Electric maintains it has done its job.

Republican County Executive Marc Molinaro wrote to EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez, asking EPA to refrain from issuing a Certificate of Completion for General Electric’s PCB cleanup project along a 40-mile stretch of the upper Hudson River.

“Our message, my message is consistent — we get one opportunity to ensure that the Hudson River is adequately cleaned, that the project that’s been under way for a number of years provides for appropriate protection of the environment, the local economy and ensures that both communities and residents who live in the Hudson Valley today and future generations know that we held this to the highest standard and that we’ve ensured that the project is done, and that the Hudson River is as greatly as possible as clean as possible,” Molinaro says.

General Electric removed 2.65 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment through 2015. The EPA, in its second review of the cleanup of PCBs from the upper Hudson River, said that the $1.7 billion, six-year cleanup of the Superfund site is working, and will accomplish its long-term goal of protecting human health and the environment. Outgoing New York state Department of Environmental Commissioner Basil Seggos:

“It would be reckless for the EPA to issue a Certificate of Completion,” Seggos says. “Our own data, data that we’ve shared extensively with the EPA and discussed with them conclusively proves that the job is far from done. So we intend to use all of our legal tools available to ensure the EPA doesn’t let GE off the hook. And anything less than that would be a betrayal of the river and its communities.”

A spokeswoman says EPA has not yet made a decision regarding GE's request for Certification of Completion of Remedial Action or the Five-Year Review. She says the agency is considering County Executive Molinaro’s input, along with the input and recommendations of other stakeholders, and hopes to come to some conclusions in the coming months. Meantime, there was an expectation around this time last year that EPA might issue a Certificate of Completion, but EPA decided to further study the matter and evaluate sediment samples. Mark Behan is GE spokesman.

“The Certificate of Completion really just addresses the work that was required for the dredging project and that work has been completed in full and completed successfully,” Behan says.

Seggos says that EPA disregarded the DEC’s request to conduct additional sampling so DEC began sampling in June 2017. He says DEC collected more than 1,600 samples to assess the levels of surface sediment contamination in the upper Hudson River and confirmed that there are significantly greater amounts of PCBs in the Hudson River than EPA anticipated there would be at the end of the dredging project. Seggos says that if allowed to remain, these sediments will delay the long-term reduction of fish PCB concentrations, prolonging risks to human health and the environment. The EPA spokeswoman describes her agency as still intensely engaged with state partners, including the review of surface sediment data collected in 2017. Meanwhile, Molinaro expects EPA will issue its decision by the end of the year.

“If a Certificate of Completion is issued, there will absolutely be, not only significant disapproval, but steps taken to hold the EPA accountable. And what form that takes, we’ll certainly discuss as time goes on,” says Molinaro. “But, again, I think that the EPA has a chance now to ensure that we do everything possible to ensure that this cleanup adequately meets the standards set by the EPA, uses data collected by New York state DEC and others and establishes for future generations a legacy of stewardship.”

Again, GE’s Behan.

“Well, we believe a Certificate of Completion should be issued because it’s very clear that GE has met or exceeded all of its obligations on the Hudson, and has completed the project and the project succeeded in meeting its goals,” says Behan.

It was in January of this year that the EPA announced it would work with the DEC to evaluate the sediment samples taken by DEC in 2017 from the upper Hudson River. And EPA said then it wanted to finalize the second Five-Year Review report before deciding whether to issue GE a Certificate of Completion.