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5-year review of Hudson River PCBs cleanup must be transparent

Riverkeeper calls for EPA to conduct a detailed, thorough review of the Upper Hudson River’s health

Hyde Park, NY — At an October 13, 2016 workshop to review the PCB cleanup of the Hudson River, Riverkeeper said that the Environmental Protection Agency’s five-year review process must be handled in a transparent and inclusive manner and that the EPA should not give General Electric a free pass when the river and its fish remain contaminated by PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

A year ago, GE announced that it had completed its mandated dredging to remove the PCBs that it dumped into the Upper Hudson River. However, peer-reviewed studies have shown that the river has not been restored to health and that many Superfund-sized hotspots of contamination remain to be addressed.

Riverkeeper has called for additional dredging since 2011. At that time, an evaluation of the cleanup by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that additional dredging was necessary to reduce ongoing injury to natural resources and to accelerate the river’s recovery. The conclusion was based on the fact that dramatically more PCBs were in the river, both within and beyond the areas originally targeted for the cleanup. These unremediated PCBs will likely prolong the reduction of PCB levels in the river’s fish and inhibit the river’s recovery.

“After the first five-year review of the project came out in 2012, Riverkeeper questioned the ability of the cleanup to meet the stated goals, including reducing target PCB levels in fish, and the failure of New York State’s consumption advisories to prevent people from eating contaminated fish,” said John Parker, Riverkeeper’s Director of Legal Programs. “Since then, proof that GE’s cleanup was not sufficient has been brought to light, so the EPA must address this evidence going forward.”

A new five-year review is scheduled to be completed next Spring, in which the EPA must determine whether the cleanup will be protective of human health and the environment. Now, however, the calls by Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson demanding a more thorough cleanup are being joined by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York Attorney General’s Office, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.

“The EPA must share with the public the data it is considering in the five-year review, including PCB levels in fish. It should provide a detailed schedule for its deliberations, indicate when there will be opportunities for public comment on the data, and outline how the findings by federal and natural resource trustees, environmental groups and the public will be incorporated,” said Parker. “The EPA cannot find that the cleanup to date has been successful without taking a serious look at a full and complete set of data in this review, and undertaking an objective quantitative analysis.”

“What is clear, based upon the data coming out, is that the River, the people and the fish remain at risk,” said Parker. “There is much to be done here as we deal with the legacy of PCB contamination in the Hudson.”


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