Report: EPA’s Hudson River dredging failed
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
In a new report, a coalition of New York environmental groups said dredging the Hudson River of toxic chemicals has failed.
The report by Friends of a Clean Hudson River showed PCB chemical levels are higher than anticipated. The Environmental Protection Agency dredged the river between 2009 and 2015 for 30 years worth of chemicals General Electric dumped into it.
Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, said while dredging is typically an effective way to clean pollutants out of a river, the EPA's effort was ineffective.
"The problem is that EPA struck a deal with GE that was too much in favor of the polluter," Sullivan contended. "They didn't require GE to clean up enough contamination."
Other federal agencies noted this. A 2015 report found GE did not do enough dredging, and the EPA did not force the company to do more.
Sullivan argued the first step to true remediation is having the EPA admit the finding was correct, and prepare for more extensive dredging.
Some 200 miles of the Hudson River are considered a Superfund site due to the high amount of contamination, and 40 miles of the Upper Hudson are GE's responsibility. Friends of a Clean Hudson River's assessment contended current sediment recovery rates are unlikely to allow fish to recover naturally.
Sullivan noted the effects it would have.
"PCBs are a forever chemical, they don't naturally break down in the environment," Sullivan stressed. "And as you move up the food chain to other wildlife that consumes fish, as well as humans, the PCBs become more and more concentrated at every level in the food chain."
The EPA has warned against eating fish caught in the river between Troy and Hudson Falls, but people still do.
Sullivan emphasized PCBs are here to stay unless more is done. He said other parts of the river also need to be monitored, since they are just as toxic as the dredged area.
"We've called on EPA to require a formal investigation of the Lower Hudson, 160 miles below the Troy Dam, where no remediation has been done," Sullivan pointed out. "We know there is additional contamination because the fish in that Lower Hudson remain unsafe to eat."
GE implemented two of three sediment collection programs this year. A third program, which includes deeper sediment sample collection, starts in 2024.
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