The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday announced that more than 612,000 cubic yards of river bottom sediment contaminated with PCBs were removed from the upper Hudson River during 2013, exceeding the annual goal of 350,000 cubic yards for this historic dredging project.
This is similar to the amount dredged in 2012 when more than 650,000 cubic yards were removed. The Superfund cleanup required by the EPA calls for the dredging of 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.
The project began in 2009 and is about 73% complete, putting the dredging on track to be finished in two years. To date, about 1.9 million of the 2.65 million cubic yards have been removed. Filling of previously dredged areas with clean sand and gravel will continue over the next several weeks, weather permitting.
About 280 local area contractors, subcontractors, vendors and suppliers have provided goods or services related to Hudson River dredging.
PCBs are potentially cancer-causing in people and build up in the fat of fish and mammals, increasing in concentration as they move up the food chain. The primary risk to people is the accumulation of PCBs in the body from eating contaminated fish. PCBs were banned by the federal government in 1979.
“We’re making great strides in removing PCBs from this historic and iconic river,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “This has been a particularly productive dredging season, helping remove a toxic burden from the river and river communities and creating local jobs.”
During dredging operations, an extensive water monitoring program measures water quality and the amount of dredged sediment that is being resuspended and transported downriver. The 500 parts per trillion federal standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act was not exceeded, as measured at Waterford, New York, the farthest downstream monitoring location in the upper Hudson River.
The EPA also set a limit on the amount of capping that can occur to isolate remaining PCBs. The requirement that capping not exceed 11% of the total project area continued to be met in 2013.
About 6% of the area was capped, not including those areas where capping was unavoidable. All of the dredged material remaining at GE’s dewatering and processing facility in Fort Edward will be shipped by train to permitted out-of-state disposal facilities by the end of the year.
Over the next several months, the EPA will be reviewing and approving technical plans for the 2014 dredging season, which will start next spring when the Champlain Canal opens for the season.
In 2014, dredging will occur in several areas of the river that are logistically challenging, including those near dams, shallow areas in bays and near islands and the landlocked section of the river located between the Thompson Island Dam and Fort Miller Dam.
Added travel time will also be required to transport dredged sediment by barge from the southernmost dredging locations to the sediment dewatering and processing facility located on the Champlain Canal in Fort Edward.
Press Release, November 6, 2013