USA: Continue Dredging as More Information is Collected

We admire and share Frances Beinecke’s commitment to a cleaner Hudson River. But we would reach that goal along slightly different routes. Ms. Beinecke wants EPA to make a final decision on the size, scope and requirements for the second phase of the Hudson River dredging project this fall.

She also wants GE to make a commitment this fall to perform whatever project EPA requires. The problem, recognized in the recent report by a panel of independent scientists, is that EPA does not yet have the information to establish the final standards governing Phase 2, nor the information to decide the final scope of Phase 2. Therefore, GE does not have the information needed to make an informed decision.

This need not be an obstacle to progress.

Dredging — meaningful cleanup progress — can and should continue as GE and EPA gather the information necessary to determine the final scope and requirements for Phase 2. GE has offered to EPA to conduct a full season of dredging in 2011 to help close this information gap, as was recommended by the independent scientists. The scientists recommended more dredging and data collection to determine if process changes can reduce the quantity of PCBs that dredging resuspends and sends downstream.

The peer review panel found that none of the performance standards governing the first phase of the project were met or could be met and recommended that new standards be established, based on the collection and analysis of these and other data. They said a quantitative model should be collaboratively developed by EPA and GE to help set a limit on the quantity of PCBs that dredging releases. They said the productivity requirement for the project, which governs the pace of dredging, should be subordinated to the other requirements — low resuspension and low residuals (the quantity of PCBs left on the surface of sediments after dredging).

We agree with the independent scientists’ conclusions and have already begun the research they recommended.

The problems in the first phase of dredging – particularly the much higher-than-anticipated levels of resuspension, the lower productivity, the inefficiencies related to an unachievable residual standard — existed, in large part, because there were insufficient data on which to base the standards. Now, we have data and experience we can’t and should not ignore — and the opportunity to improve dredging, reduce the downstream impacts and make the project more effective. Plus, we have a panel of independent scientists unanimously recommending this very approach.

We should accept their guidance, collect the information — and continue dredging in 2011. Then, next fall, when EPA, GE and the public have all the data, there will be sound scientific basis on which to make final decisions for Phase 2. With this approach, no time is lost. Dredging continues while additional research is conducted.

GE made a commitment eight years ago to cooperate with EPA on this project. We repeat that commitment. Thus far, GE has invested more than $830 million in Hudson River cleanup and research, including more than $560 million on the first phase of dredging. We believe a major dredging project can be safely and effectively undertaken in Phase 2, but its scope and standards must not be decided “on the fly.” They should be based on the very best and most reliable information available.

From Ann Klee, GE

Vice President, Corporate Environmental Programs


Source: businesswire, September 10, 2010