State Sues Over Hudson Cleanup

Dredging the Hudson River to remove sediment polluted with PCBs (photo by Ned Sullivan/Scenic Hudson)   

Alleges EPA let General Electric off hook

The State of New York on Wednesday (Aug. 21) sued the Environmental Protection Agency over the agency’s decision to grant a “certificate of completion” to General Electric for its removal of pollution from the Hudson River.

The EPA issued the certificate on April 11. It signals that GE no longer must dredge to remove polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) one of its factories dumped into the Hudson. The state argues that PCB concentrations remain too high in parts of the river.

Workers hired by GE dredge the Hudson River to remove sediment polluted with PCBs (Photo by Ned Sullivan/Scenic Hudson)

The state maintains that the EPA doesn’t have the authority to declare the cleanup complete because the agency has failed to ensure that it protected human health and the environment.

“Hudson River fish remain much too contaminated with PCBs to safely eat, and EPA admits they don’t know when — or if — they ever will be,” said Attorney General Letitia James in a statement. “The EPA can’t ignore these facts, or the law, and simply pronounce GE’s cleanup of PCBs complete.”

The Hudson River PCB Superfund site encompasses a nearly 200-mile stretch of the Hudson River divided into two areas: Hudson Falls downstream to the federal dam at Troy (about 40 miles) and from the dam to the southern tip of Manhattan (about 140 miles). GE dredged the upper portion for six years, from 2009 to 2015, but the state says 54 tons of PCBs remain.

“Since GE settled the case in 2005, it has spent less than 1.5 percent of its profits on cleaning up the mess it made in the Hudson River,” said Greg Williams, president of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, in a statement. “Asking New Yorkers to wait another 50 years to be able to safely eat the fish is neither reasonable nor lawful.”

Dutchess County said on Aug. 23 it planned to file a legal brief in support of the lawsuit.

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