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NYSNYS NEWS: Environmental groups urge Cuomo and regulators to make General Electric remove more PCB contamination from the Hudson River.
NYSNYS News
NYSNYS NEWS: Environmental groups urge Cuomo and regulators to make General Electric remove more PCB contamination from the Hudson River.


By Kyle Hughes
NYSNYS News


ALBANY, N.Y. (May 28) – Environmental groups said Thursday General Electric should finish the job of removing PCBs from the Hudson River, urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo and government officials to not let GE off the hook.

They said new evidence suggests the PCBs left in the river will continue to poison fish and endanger human health of nearby residents as they breathe in vaporized toxic chemicals. Under the cleanup plan, about 35 percent of the PCBs in the river won't be removed by the dredging project now under way.

"There's a big campaign on now in the media for 'I Fish NY' … and I know that Gov. Cuomo is a big fisherman," said Gil Hawkins of the Hudson River Fishermen's Association. "He likes to fish. We all like to fish. It's part of our hunting and gathering instincts."

"But there has to be an asterisk when it comes to the Hudson River because it's catch and release only and I'm not sure you want to see that in an ad for coming to New York state and saying, 'Come to New York State, fish our Hudson River but catch and release only because of the PCB situation.' "

Under the banner of the Campaign for a Cleaner Hudson, environmental groups are pushing for GE to dredge PCB sediments from the Hudson's navigational channel and remove additional acres of contaminated stretches of the river. They held a press conference Thursday as part of Hudson River Advocacy Day in the Capitol.

General Electric says it has complied with the EPA settlement and both the company and government regulators believe the dredging is meeting all the goals set out in the agreement reached a decade ago to clean up the river.

"GE is meeting all of its responsibilities on the Hudson," Mark Behan, a GE media representative, said in a statement distributed after the press conference. "When dredging is completed this year, GE will have addressed 100 percent of the PCBs that EPA targeted. EPA has concluded that the project is achieving the agency’s cleanup goals and protecting public health and the environment and that 'additional dredging is not necessary' in the Upper or Lower Hudson.

"As is often the case with projects of this size and complexity, there are differences of opinion. The calls for significantly more dredging – beyond what EPA required — are not new. EPA gave careful consideration to these calls before selecting its remedy and then again in 2012 when it conducted a five-year review required by the Superfund law. The agency has consistently reaffirmed that the project it ordered – bank-to-bank dredging in some areas, more targeted dredging in others -- would provide the maximum environmental benefit with the least environmental and community impact. That’s the project GE has performed and, by all accounts, performed exceptionally well.

"Although dredging will be completed in 2015, GE’s work on the Hudson River will continue. GE will continue to monitor environmental conditions on the river, continue the cleanups of its Hudson Falls and Fort Edward plant sites, and conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the floodplains along the river shorelines to determine whether PCBs are present and how best to address them."

The Hudson River is the largest Superfund toxic waste site in the U.S. and is expected to be on the list for decades since it may take a very long time for the PCB levels to drop to acceptable levels.

If there is no additional cleanup beyond the current goals, "we're left with a 200-mile long Superfund site which is a danger to the health of anyone who breathes the air along the Hudson or who boats on or fishes in the river," said Dr. Kathleen Nolan of Physicians for Social Responsibility-New York.

Peter Bardunias of the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County, a business group, said cleaning up the river by dredging navigational channels and canals would attract more commercial transport and investment dollars.

General Electric faces potential "monumental damages" for the injury and loss of services from the PCB pollution, National Resources Defense Council lawyer Dan Raichel said. "GE is on the hook and must fulfill its obligation to all of us who live along the Hudson River."

Scenic Hudson said GE's potential liability could be offset by targeted additional dredging of the river and to clear a commercial shipping channel

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