USA: GE Proposes Path Forward on Hudson Cleanup

GE has submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a proposal for a full season of dredging in the Upper Hudson River in 2011, setting the stage for more clean-up progress as EPA and GE gather the additional information necessary to make final decisions about the second phase of the project.

“GE proposes to move forward with the cleanup of the Hudson River while working with EPA to collect the data necessary to make decisions about how the larger second phase of the dredging project can be conducted in a way that protects the river and river communities,” said Ann R. Klee, GE’s vice president of corporate environmental programs.

“GE is committed to following the guidance of the panel of independent scientists who evaluated this project and unanimously recommended another year of dredging and data collection to ensure that the final decisions on this massive cleanup are based on the most reliable scientific data.”

The Hudson project is one of the largest and most logistically complex environmental dredging projects in U.S. history. GE conducted the first or pilot phase in 2009, with more than 500 employees working 24 hours a day between May and October under close EPA oversight. Phase 1 tested the project’s ability to achieve three engineering performance standards established by EPA. A panel of independent scientists who evaluated the project concluded that none of the performance standards were met or could be met and called for major changes.

Klee said the magnitude of the problems widely recognized in Phase 1 — especially the much higher-than-anticipated quantity of PCBs swept downstream by the clean-up process itself — related, in large part, to the lack of sufficient data for EPA to set the original performance standards. “Now, we have data and actual dredging experience that should not be ignored — and the opportunity to improve this project, reduce the downstream impacts and make the cleanup more effective. Plus, we have a panel of independent scientists unanimously recommending another year of dredging and more data collection.”

GE’s proposal to conduct dredging, monitoring and modeling in 2011, consistent with the recommendations of the peer reviewers, was made in a September 9, 2010, letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. It includes:

* Conducting a significant dredging project in 2011, under interim standards and strict monitoring and supervision;

* Collecting additional data on dredging to determine if changing some aspects of the process can reduce the quantity of PCBs that dredging sends downstream;

* Collaborating with EPA to develop a quantitative, state-of-the-science computer model to guide future decisions on the project; and,

* Collecting additional river sediment data beginning this fall to identify the depth of PCBs in areas scheduled for dredging.

Once the additional season of dredging is completed and the data are collected and analyzed, likely next fall, EPA will have a sound scientific basis on which to determine the final requirements and scope for the second phase of the project. GE also will have the information necessary to make an informed decision on whether to conduct Phase 2.

GE already has provided EPA with a next-generation Hudson River computer model developed by a team of the nation’s foremost modelers, led by GE consultant Dr. John Connolly of AnchorQEA, a member of EPA’s Science Advisory Board staff. EPA is evaluating the model. The independent scientists’ report identified the AnchorQEA model as a good foundation for the development of a joint EPA-GE model for the Hudson.

GE also has received EPA approval to conduct sediment sampling in the river this fall and will begin to do so shortly.

GE made a commitment eight years ago to cooperate with EPA on this project. 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.


September 14, 2010