U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck was joined by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Deputy Commissioner Eugene Leff today to kick off the start of the fourth season of dredging in the Upper Hudson River.
Portions of the Upper Hudson are being dredged to remove sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are potentially cancer-causing chemicals that build up in the food chain and can cause neurological damage, especially in children.
In 2013, dredging will begin south of the village of Fort Edward, New York around Griffin Island and will continue south in the main stem of the river to the Thompson Island Dam. Additional dredging is planned between Champlain Canal Lock 5 and 6 near the towns of Northumberland and Schuylerville.
“Tremendous progress has already been made in the cleanup of this iconic river,” said Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “We’re seeing communities in the dredging corridor investing in the revitalization of their waterfronts. The dredging project supports these efforts to bring people back to the river to enjoy a tremendous natural resource.”
The historic dredging project targets approximately 2.65 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from a 40-mile stretch of the upper Hudson River between Fort Edward and Troy, New York. At the end of the 2012 dredging season, the project was nearly half-way to its target with more than 1.3 million cubic yards removed since the project began in 2009. The dredging goal for 2013 is 350,000 cubic yards. The rest of the cleanup is expected to take three to five more years to complete.
“The Hudson River PCB cleanup illustrates that environmental cleanups also create jobs,” said Enck. “350 new jobs in upstate New York were created by this superfund cleanup every year.”
During the 2013 season, up to six mechanical dredges will work through the summer and fall to remove PCB-contaminated sediment from the river bottom and place clean sand and gravel over dredged areas. Mechanical dredges mounted on deck barges will use environmental clamshell buckets to dredge and place sediment into barges. Tugboats will push the filled barges to a dewatering and sediment-processing facility located on the Champlain Canal in Fort Edward, New York. Once there, water will be removed from the sediment.
The coarse material will then be separated from the fine sediment that contains most of the PCB contamination. The remaining sediment is pumped to the dewatering facility where large filter presses squeeze water from the sediment. The water will be treated to strict water quality standards before it is released back into the Champlain Canal. The remaining sediment and debris will be loaded onto railcars and transported by train to permitted, off-site disposal facilities.
During dredging, the EPA requires extensive monitoring to ensure that the amount of sediment resuspended in the water and the amount of sediment that moves downriver during dredging operations is within acceptable limits. The EPA also requires monitoring to reduce the effects of dredging and dewatering operations on surrounding communities.
EPA is overseeing the dredging project that is being conducted by General Electric under the terms of a 2006 legal agreement. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is supporting the EPA in overseeing the cleanup.
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.
Press Release, April 30, 2013