USA: Third Season of Hudson River Dredging Ends
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that as the third season of dredging draws to a close later this week, a total of more than 1.3 million cubic yards of sediment contaminated with PCBs will have been removed from the Hudson River.
Since dredging began on May 9, 2012, about 650,000 cubic yards of sediment were dredged from a three-mile section of the river south of the village of Fort Edward, New York, exceeding the season goal of dredging 350,000 cubic yards. With the third season of dredging nearly complete, the EPA is almost half way toward its goal of removing 2.65 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment from a 40-mile stretch of the upper Hudson River. The dredging project also created 500 jobs and additional economic benefits for the area.
All of the EPA-required limits on the amount of sediment stirred up and resuspended during the dredging and the amount of area that can be capped were met. Over the next several weeks, clean material will be placed over the areas that were dredged.
“With the third season of dredging nearly complete, the EPA is approximately half way toward its goal of a cleaner Hudson River,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “With each successful dredging season, we draw closer to a healthier Hudson River and to the day when we can restore this historic river to its former glory.”
PCBs are likely cancer-causing chemicals and can cause neurological damage, especially in children. They build up in the fatty tissue of fish and other animals. The primary health risk to people is from eating contaminated fish.
Over a 30-year period, ending in the late 1970’s, an estimated 1.3 million pounds of PCBs entered the river from two General Electric capacitor manufacturing plants located in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, New York. The EPA is overseeing the dredging project that is being conducted by General Electric under the terms of a 2006 legal agreement.
During dredging, the EPA required extensive monitoring to ensure that the amount of sediment drifting downriver during the operation was within acceptable limits. The EPA also set a requirement that no more than two percent of the total amount of PCBs actually removed from the river could be stirred up and resuspended in the water, as measured at Schuylerville, which was the monitoring station nearest to where dredging occurred in 2012. The requirement for Waterford, the farthest downstream monitoring station in the upper Hudson River, was no more than one percent of the amount removed. Both of these requirements were met during the 2012 dredging season. The requirement that capping not exceed 11% of the total project area was met with less than 5% of the area being capped, not counting those areas where capping is unavoidable, was also met.
The EPA also required monitoring to gauge impacts on surrounding communities, such as noise and air quality. Operational changes, which included keeping dredged sediment in barges covered with water and prioritizing the transport and processing of the most contaminated sediment first, reduced air quality and noise impacts during the 2012 season.
In the coming months the EPA will determine what changes, if any, are needed for the next season of dredging set to begin next spring. The shipment of dredged sediment to permitted out-of-state disposal facilities will continue this calendar year until all dredged sediment remaining at the Fort Edward processing facility has been transported off-site by train.
During the initial years of the project, the areas targeted for dredging were close together and generally extended from shoreline to shoreline. In future years, as the project continues to move southward towards Troy, the dredging areas will be further apart. Several areas will also need to dredged that are logistically challenging, including those near dams, shallow areas behind islands and the landlocked section of river located between the Thompson Island Dam and Fort Miller Dam. The rest of the cleanup is expected to take three to five more years to complete.
Press Release, November 14, 2012