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

PCBs study to focus on Lower Hudson

Photo by Joseph Squillante, 2015
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Agreement between EPA & GE paves the way for long overdue data collection – and potential cleanup – in the Lower Hudson.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a legal agreement with General Electric this week that begins an overdue and critically important phase in dealing with GE’s legacy of toxic contamination from PCBs in fish and sediment throughout the Hudson River. Under the agreement, GE will plan and fund a study of contamination extending throughout the “Lower Hudson” – the entire 160-mile stretch from the Federal Dam at Troy south to the Battery in New York City – by collecting samples of fish, water and sediment and analyzing levels of PCBs and other contaminants.

For years, Riverkeeper and our allies have been pushing the EPA for a “remedial investigation” of the Lower Hudson River. A remedial investigation under the Superfund law is a structured way of investigating the nature and extent of contamination at a site, designed to lead to a cleanup decision. As anticipated, the new agreement falls short of that step. However, according to the EPA, the study will help the agency determine whether to order a remedial investigation in the future.

“Investigating the PCB contamination throughout the Hudson – and determining how to address it – is absolutely critical for the health of the river, the life that relies on it, and people around it,” Riverkeeper Senior Attorney Erin Doran said. “We hope this agreement is a first step towards effectively addressing PCB pollution in the Lower Hudson River. We urge the EPA to ensure that the study is comprehensive, that it proceeds without delay, and that it leads to the actions needed to help restore the river back to health.”

Riverkeeper’s President, Tracy Brown, added, “Riverkeeper is encouraged by the EPA’s agreement with GE to perform sampling in the Lower Hudson River. The EPA must continue to hold GE accountable for all of its PCB pollution, including the contamination in the vast 160-mile stretch of the Hudson from Troy to the Battery. Families along the Hudson River should be able to safely eat fish caught from the river without fear of health risks posed by PCBs. We are still a long way from that goal. After years of calling for action from EPA and GE to address PCB contamination in the lower Hudson, we are encouraged that this study is happening and look forward to a meaningful cleanup to follow.”

Photo by Joseph Squillante, 2015

The Hudson River is the largest Superfund site in the nation because of GE’s dumping of PCBs from the 1940s to 1970s from its manufacturing plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls. The landmark 2009-2015 dredging project removed PCBs from “hotspots” in a 40-mile stretch of the Upper River above Troy, but nothing has been done to address contamination in the Lower River. Fish throughout the Superfund site remain hazardous to eat, and the dredging has had little to no effect on PCB levels in fish below the Troy dam. GE remains legally responsible for its PCBs that migrated to this area, the EPA noted.

Meanwhile, people continue to consume contaminated fish, despite health advisories based on the harmful health effects from PCBs. The delays have health consequences, and the burden falls most heavily on people of color.

EPA representatives said they were working to expand the existing Community Advisory Group for the Hudson River PCBs Superfund Site, or convene a new group for the Lower Hudson River.

Learn more:

EPA Hudson River Superfund Site website

Community Advisory Group

EPA PowerPoint Presentation – Project Update and Lower Hudson River Agreement

Media contacts:

Leah Rae, [email protected], (914) 715-6821

Luke Dougherty, [email protected], (914) 478-4501 x230

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