Maloney warns EPA could side with GE
By Brian PJ Cronin
With doubts swirling about the efficacy of General Electric’s pollution cleanup in the upper Hudson River, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said on Dec. 20 that it had found the level of PCB contamination is still above the level considered acceptable by the federal government.
Of eight sections sampled, six had PCB concentrations above an average of 1 part per million (PPM), the threshold the federal Environmental Protection Agency uses as a goal in Superfund cleanups. One section averaged nearly five times the acceptable amount.
The results reinforce a similar study commissioned by Scenic Hudson which found that areas of the Hudson that GE had dredged have experienced significant recontamination (PCB Dredging Areas in Hudson Still Polluted, Dec. 14). The DEC study also questioned the methods that the EPA used to measure the effectiveness of the cleanup.
“This analysis affirms that remaining PCB ‘hotspots’ in the Upper Hudson — several of which are located near population centers — continue to pose a significant health risk to humans and wildlife,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan in a statement. “It is imperative that the EPA not issue General Electric a certificate of completion” after its second five-year review of the project.
Scenic Hudson also called on the EPA to order GE to investigate PCB levels in the lower Hudson River, “which remains as contaminated today as it was before the upriver dredging project,” Sullivan said.
With the EPA’s second five-year review of the dredging already overdue, environmental groups fear that the agency will rule that GE’s cleanup is complete. Those fears were fanned by a recent statement from U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, whose House district includes the Highlands, that a decision from the EPA in favor of GE was imminent.
In a letter to the EPA, Maloney and five other members of Congress who represent areas adjacent to the Hudson River urged the agency not to declare an end to the cleanup, which has already cost GE billions of dollars.
“Continuing to live with this legacy of pollution and its impact on achieving waterfront community and economic development is not an acceptable path forward,” they wrote. “Leaving such a large amount of polluted sediment behind will delay the river’s full recovery by decades, limit future restoration opportunities, restrict deep-draft shipping in the river and Champlain Canal, and prevent communities from making long-term economic redevelopment plans.”
In a statement, the EPA’s Region 2 office said the agency continues its review and “hopes to come to some conclusions in the near term.”