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Science–Not Corporate Interests–Should Guide Hudson River Cleanup, Say Environmental Groups

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
Natural Resources Defense Council
Scenic Hudson


Jay Burgess, Scenic Hudson, 845 473 4440, Ext. 222; [email protected]
Tina Posterli, Riverkeeper, 914 478 4501, Ext. 239; [email protected]
Tom Staudter, Clearwater, 845 265 8080, Ext. 7112; [email protected]
Kate Slusark, Natural Resources Defense Council, 212 727 4592; [email protected]

Environmental Groups Call for Science Not Corporate Interests to Guide Hudson River Cleanup

EPA, GE to release final reports on PCB cleanup’s first phase Friday; groups urge EPA to determine next steps

CAPITAL REGION/HUDSON VALLEY— As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and General Electric Co. (GE) prepare to release their final reports on Friday, March 5, on the first phase of GE’s legally mandated cleanup of toxic PCBs the company dumped in the Hudson River, leading environmental groups are stressing that objective science and the EPA—not corporate interests—must determine the path forward to complete the historic cleanup.

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson have been pushing for the PCB cleanup for 25 years. Decades of independent, peer-reviewed science determined that the cleanup is critical for the health of the river and communities along its shores. The cleanup will bring huge benefits—including greatly expanded economic opportunities—to communities up and down the Hudson.

The cleanup’s first phase already has shown that the volume of PCBs removed from the river was larger than expected and that aggressive safety standards and high-tech monitoring worked largely as intended to protect public health. Finding more PCBs in the river heightens the need for the cleanup. The EPA—which managed the hugely complex project during a season with record-breaking rains and other challenges—should determine if dredging refinements could make the cleanup even more effective in the second phase.

GE’s draft report on the results of the cleanup’s first phase was vastly different than the EPA’s. The company has a long record of delaying the project and seeking the cheapest approach, but successfully completing the cleanup presents a potential bonus for GE’s reputation as a technology and green business leader, if the company seizes the opportunity.

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan has experience as an official overseeing toxic cleanups in the states of New York and Maine. From that perspective, he said, “Three different White House administrations have supported the need for this cleanup and acted on findings that the technology exists to get it done right. Our communities, environment and economy aren’t healthy when the Hudson River is labeled the nation’s largest toxic waste site.

“As the polluter, GE was at the table with the Bush administration negotiating every detail of the cleanup. If there are problems to overcome, GE has the engineering capability to create solutions. In my experience, the single most important factor is whether the company performing the work is committed to getting it done right. GE has the capability to do the job. It remains to be seen if it has the commitment,” he added.

Clearwater Environmental Director Manna Jo Greene believes a rigorous cleanup is necessary. “During the first dredging season, GE’s contractors removed almost twice as much PCB-contaminated sediment as they expected to find from only 10 of the 18 work sites scheduled to be dredged in Phase 1. Having realized there are far more PCBs in the upper Hudson than was originally predicted, they are now asking to have the performance standards relaxed so they can dredge less. We believe that if you are going to do the cleanup, it must be done right.”

She concluded, “Any PCBs left in the upper Hudson will eventually wash downstream to an area of the river that will not be remediated by this Superfund cleanup. The answer is not to dredge less, but to dredge more carefully and completely.”

Riverkeeper Senior Counsel Rebecca Troutman noted, “During 2009, one of the most traumatic years for both the United States’ and world economies, GE reported earnings of $11.2 billion. According to GE’s Web site, ‘Ecomagination,’ the company is ‘helping to solve the world’s biggest environmental challenges.’ Forbes and Fortune rank the company as one of the largest and most profitable in the world, and both the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the EPA say the experience from Phase 1 demonstrates that Phase 2 should go forward. Given these facts, we believe GE should fine-tune the process in the ways the scientists direct, and finish the full job with all possible care. The Hudson River, one of America’s greatest natural resources, and the communities who use it, deserve no less.”

NRDC Attorney Larry Levine said, “We believe lessons learned from Phase 1 of the Hudson River PCB cleanup will show that GE and the EPA can complete the job right. We have leading world innovators working on this—no one is better equipped to clean up the mistakes of their past than GE. The EPA must hold GE responsible for seeing the job through and returning a clean and healthy Hudson River to the people of New York and New Jersey.”

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