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Riverkeeper, State Comptroller Push for Expanded PCB Dredging

PCB Contamination Continues to Plague the Hudson River

General Electric agrees to revisit scope of PCB Cleanup on Upper Hudson.
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Co-authored by Abby Jones

At State Comptroller’s Insistence, GE Agrees to Evaluate Future Dredging Commitments.

General Electric agrees to revisit scope of PCB Cleanup on Upper Hudson.

General Electric (GE) is finally heeding the call to evaluate the scope of its dredging of PCBs in order to enhance the restoration of the Hudson River.

Riverkeeper commends the New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for compelling GE to consider expanding its cleanup of PCBs under a 2002 agreement with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This comes on the heels of a report by the Federal Natural Resource Damages Trustees (Jan. 2013) that confirms that the entire extent of the Hudson River is “extensively contaminated” and the high levels of PCBs that remain present a serious and long-term threat to the health of the entire Hudson River ecosystem. For example, since 1976, New York State has banned the harvest and consumption of virtually all the river’s commercially viable species, including striped bass, eel, carp, catfish, and perch due to PCB contamination.

As discussed during the well-attended PCB Public Forum held at Marist College this past January and co-hosted by Riverkeeper, various reports since the 2002 EPA cleanup agreement recognize that there are approximately 136-acres of PCB-laden sediment outside the current dredge area that could undermine the cleanup and may result in a longer recovery time for the river.

And GE’s agreement to examine expanding the scope of its current dredging plan could not come at a better time. Just this week, the New York State Canal Corporation submitted an application for a permit to dredge PCB-contaminated sediment within portion of the Champlain Canal that falls outside GE’s current cleanup area. (Public comments on this application are being accepted by the Army Corps of Engineers until April 10, 2013.)

This is of particular importance because of the astronomical cost of dredging and disposing of PCB-contaminated sediment. In order to go forward, the Canal Corporation will either have to come to a resolution with GE on how to pay for this dredging or burden the New York State taxpayer with raising the funds to cover the extraordinarily expensive handling of the contamination.

Despite all this, there is still no guarantee that GE will come to the right conclusion and actually expand its dredging at this time. As GE told Bloomberg News, it “does not believe more dredging is necessary” than what is required under the 2002 EPA agreement.

Given comments like this, Riverkeeper will remain vigilant and will continue to push GE to ensure that the additional 136-acres of contamination is dealt with so that the Hudson River has the chance it deserves to recover from this decades-long toxic legacy.

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