USA: EPA Marks Startup of Hudson River Dredging Final Phase; 500 Jobs Created by Cleanup Project

EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck was joined today in Fort Edward, New York by Representative Maurice Hinchey, Representative Paul Tonko and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens to mark the start of the second and final phase of the Hudson River cleanup that began on June 6, 2011. During this phase of dredging, General Electric will remove about 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment from a forty-mile section of the Upper Hudson River between Fort Edward and Troy, NY that is contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs are potentially cancer-causing in people and build up in the fat of fish and animals, increasing in concentration as they move up the food chain. The primary risk to humans is due to the accumulation of PCBs in the body from eating contaminated fish.

This week, we started the final course of the long awaited cleanup of a treasured and historic river. EPA is grateful for the work and cooperation provided by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Attorney General’s office. This state and federal partnership is responsible for past progress and we look forward to working with the state and others to remove PCBs from Hudson River,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “EPA looks forward to returning the Hudson River to health so that is can be fully utilized by the people up and down the Hudson Valley.”

Starting phase two of the Hudson River clean-up project is an important milestone to restore the health of the Hudson River,” New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said. “This project is an important example of how collaboration among government agencies can benefit the people they serve and the area in which they live and work. GE’s commitment to completing Phase 2 will ensure the project continues to progress. DEC looks forward to continuing this productive partnership with the EPA and GE.”

During the current dredging season, which runs to November 2011, mechanical dredges will remove buckets of PCB-contaminated sediment from a 1.5 mile stretch of river, south of the town of Fort Edward. Four dredges will work 24 hours a day, six days a week to remove approximately 350,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from 100 acres of river bottom. Dredging will begin in the western channel of Roger’s Island and move south in the main stem of the river.

Sediment removed from the river will be transported by a fleet of up to 17 barges to the sediment dewatering facility located on the Champlain Canal in Fort Edward. At the facility, the water will be squeezed from the sediment and treated on-site to a level that meets standards for drinking water before being returned to the Champlain Canal. The dewatered sediment will be loaded onto railcars for transport to a permitted out-of-state landfill.

The start of the second phase of dredging follows an evaluation by an independent group of scientific experts of data collected during the first phase of dredging. After the review, improvements were made to the project design to increase productivity and reduce the resuspension of dredged sediment. During the second phase, more contaminated sediment will be captured in fewer passes of the dredges. EPA also established a limit on the amount of “capping” that can occur to isolate remaining PCBs. The second phase of the cleanup will remove the remainder of the contaminated river sediment that is targeted for dredging.

In December 2010, General Electric agreed to conduct and pay for the second phase of the cleanup. All remaining dredging and related work will be conducted by General Electric with EPA oversight.

Each subsequent year of dredging will occur between May and November when the Champlain Canal is open for the season. Dredging data and operations will be evaluated in the off season and changes and project improvements will be made as necessary. As part of the habitat restoration program, some areas will be repopulated with aquatic plants in the growing season following the year in which the area is dredged. In June 2011, approximately 140,000 aquatic plants will be planted in areas that were dredged during the first phase in 2009.

Extensive monitoring will continue during the second phase to protect water quality and limit impacts on local communities. EPA’s Hudson River dredging data website,, has been updated for the second phase and includes new information and features, including interactive data maps.

Between 1947 and 1977, an estimated 1.3 million pounds of PCBs were discharged into the river from two General Electric capacitor manufacturing plants located in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls. The dredging of the Hudson River was designed to occur in two phases. The first phase was conducted by General Electric under the terms of a November 2006 legal agreement. General Electric is also performing the second phase under the legal agreement. Dredging began in May 2009 and ended in November 2009. During this phase, approximately 283,000 cubic yards was removed from a six-mile stretch of the Upper Hudson River near Fort Edward.


Source: epa, June 13, 2011