Campaigns & Cases > Stop Polluters > Hudson River PCBs

Hudson River PCBs

PCB's Rally

General Electric’s legacy of toxic PCB pollution in the Hudson River persists, despite cleanup of some highly contaminated areas of sediment. Fish throughout the Hudson are dangerous to eat, and almost all commercial fishing remains closed. These are grave injustices that will continue for generations. It’s up to all of us to continue demanding the complete cleanup we deserve.

EPA’s dredging remedy for Hudson River PCBs Superfund site is failing to protect human and environmental health
Read the Executive Summary >

Read the full report: The Friends of a Clean Hudson: An Independent Review of EPA’s Upper Hudson River PCB Dredging Remedy >

Read the Executive Summary (SPANISH) >

Download the FAQ >
Download the FAQ (Spanish) >

Watch the recording of the 11/14 meeting: Hudson River PCBs Superfund Site – Where are we now, what’s next, and how you can help

The problem

General Electric dumped an estimated 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River between 1947 and 1977. The PCB discharges came from two GE capacitor manufacturing plants located in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, New York, about 50 miles north of Albany. In 1973, the Fort Edward Dam was removed from the upper Hudson River causing large amounts of contaminated sediments to wash downstream and settled throughout the Hudson River. In 1984, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classified a 200-mile stretch of the Hudson River, from Hudson Falls to the Battery in New York City, as a federal Superfund site. To this day, the Hudson River is the largest Superfund site in the country.

Though a landmark dredging project removed PCBs from select areas of concentrated pollution known as “hotspots” in a 40-mile stretch of the Upper Hudson north of Troy from 2009 to 2015, a significant amount of PCBs remained in the river upon completion of the project.

Scientific studies are showing that cleanup efforts have not succeeded to the degree projected, and the spread of PCBs down the Hudson River has only increased over time. The dredging has had little to no effect on PCB levels in fish below the Troy dam.

GE’s PCBs are still found at dangerous levels in sediment, water, and wildlife throughout the Hudson River ecosystem as far south as New York Harbor and remain a health hazard to those who eat the fish. Women under 50 and children under 15 are advised by the New York State Health Department not to eat fish from anywhere in the river south of the Corinth Dam to New York City. Others are advised to limit their consumption of fish and crabs. Such restrictions place a disproportionate burden on individuals in environmental justice communities who rely on the fish as a food source. These injustices will persist for generations.

What’s next

In October 2023, the EPA plans to release its draft third five-year review of the Hudson River PCBs Superfund Site for public comment. Through these reviews, required under the Superfund law, the EPA reports on the status of the cleanup, whether it is working as intended, and whether it is protective of people’s health and the environment.

As part of the upcoming review, EPA will review fish, water and sediment data collected between 2017 and 2021. To date, the studies and cleanup have focused primarily on the “Upper” Hudson River, north of Troy. For years, Riverkeeper, partner organizations and those who support the health of the River have been pressing EPA to expand these studies to the “Lower” Hudson, the 160-mile stretch from Troy to New York City. In 2022, EPA announced a legal agreement that directs GE to fund a study, now under way, of contamination throughout this lower portion. Riverkeeper continues to advocate for a formal Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study of the Lower Hudson, which is the gold standard for investigating the nature and extent of contamination at a Superfund site, and would lead to a cleanup decision.

At the same time, another process is under way to evaluate environmental damages and injuries associated with GE’s PCB contamination: the Hudson River Natural Resource Damage Assessment. The assessment examines the damages caused by the PCBs that may be compensated, whether monetarily or through restoration projects, by GE.

Riverkeeper will continue its work to see that the full cleanup occurs and that the Hudson River is restored. You can help make this happen. To find out how and stay informed, sign up for email updates.

THE LATEST NEWS ON HUDSON RIVER PCBS >

Municipal sign-on letter urging EPA to take actions that would place the Hudson River PCBs Superfund Site on areal path to recovery

Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson and a coalition of partners request meaningful public engagement for Lower Hudson PCBs study

PCBs study will examine contamination in Hudson River from Troy to NYC

  • A Brief History: GE PCBs in the Hudson

  • Health Effects of PCBs

  • The end of a centuries-old way of lifeThe Impact of PCBs on the Hudson River Fishery

  • GE’s Fight to Avoid the Cleanup

Tell Gov. Hochul to block invasive species at the Erie and Champlain canals
Become a Member