Blogs > Docket > Riverkeeper, elected officials, business leaders call on GE to finish the job, undo damage from PCBs

Riverkeeper, elected officials, business leaders call on GE to finish the job, undo damage from PCBs


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Enough talk, GE: Now’s the time to take responsibility and undo the full damage from PCBs in the Hudson. Stop holding back local business growth.

Yesterday, Riverkeeper joined elected officials and business and environmental groups to appeal for action. Our broad-based coalition demanded that General Electric (GE) finish the job and restore the health of the Hudson River and commercial and recreational interests along the river, which have been deteriorating for decades due to GE’s contamination of the Hudson River with over 1 million pounds of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). The well-attended event took place at the Hudson River Crossing Park, at Lock 5 on the Hudson River, just north of Schuyerville.

While, to date, GE has cleaned up approximately 70 percent of PCBs it is required to dredge under its Superfund agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this remediation does nothing to reduce the company’s separate Natural Resource Damages (NRD) liability under which the company must restore the natural resources its pollution has damaged and compensate the public for the loss of decades worth of services from these natural resources. Such damages include not only environmental and ecological damages, but also recreational and commercial damages resulting from the widespread contamination.

Specifically, our announcement yesterday highlighted the 136 acres of highly-contaminated sediment, which, although not included in the original cleanup agreement, the NRD Trustees have recognized will jeopardize the long-term recovery of the river and could compromise any NRD restoration efforts. Also highlighted yesterday was the Champlain Canal which is filled with PCB-contaminated sediment, including portions of the 136-acres, thus preventing the New York State Canal Corporation from dredging the navigation channel for over 30 years.

As we made clear, GE’s responsibility goes far beyond environmental issues. The PCB contamination to date has resulted in decades of economic downfall for river-based communities. Hudson River fisheries (both commercial and recreational) have been decimated from the nearly 30-year ban on fish consumption. River-based recreation has been stymied because of the presence of PCBs, so that even when communities spend millions to increase access to the river, such as with the new kayak launch at the Hudson Crossing Park, posted PCB warnings ward off many potential users. And large commercial and recreational vessels are unable to maneuver upriver due to layers of PCB contaminated sediment muddying up the navigation channel.

All of these losses of service are part and parcel of GE’s NRD liability. And the longer these losses continue, the larger the damages that will be accrued against GE.

GE – which recently decided to shut down its Fort Edward-based operations – cannot continue to shirk its responsibility to these communities by refusing to address the issue of restoration dredging while the company’s current dredging and dewatering operations are up and running.

Cleaning up the 136 acres and the navigation channel means a quicker recovery of the river and river-based economies. It is also likely to reduce GE’s liability for damages under the NRD process. Yet GE continues to stick its head in the PCB-laden mud, refusing to acknowledge anything beyond its ongoing Superfund cleanup.

GE owes it to the communities to make up for the natural resources and economic development opportunities it has robbed them of since the 1940s.

Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay will continue the conversation September 12th on The Capitol Green Scene, 88.3 FM.

(Photo: At podium, Mechanicsville Supervisor and Historic Hudson-Hoosic Partnership Chair Tom Richardson. Attendees, from left to right: Riverkeeper Staff Attorney Abigail Jones; Clearwater President Peter Gross; NYS Senator Kathy Marchione; Saratoga Town Supervisor Tom Wood; and Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan.)

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