Finalizing Hudson River PCB Sampling

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos yesterday announced that the state is nearing completion of their independent investigation of Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) contamination in the Hudson River.

At Governor Andrew Cuomo’s direction, DEC launched a sampling effort this summer to fully assess the nature and extent of contamination left behind after six years of dredging to remove PCBs was completed with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversight.

The State also submitted comments rejecting the EPA’s conclusion that the dredging sufficiently remediated the Hudson River to a level protective of public health and the environment.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said: “A remedy that fails to meet its goals for 55 years is not protective. EPA has a legal and moral obligation to complete the work they started and meet the goals the agency set when the dredging remedy was selected. Anything less is unacceptable. As I promised one year ago, in the absence of leadership and responsible action by the EPA, Governor Cuomo and New York are stepping up to protect public health and the Hudson River environment.”‎

In June, EPA’s proposed Five-Year Review Report found that its selected PCB cleanup remedy was not yet “protective” of public health and the environment but that it will be protective in over fifty years from now.

DEC rejects EPA’s finding based on its own research and analysis of existing information that reveal unacceptable levels of PCBs remain in the river sediments and fish tissues. DEC yesterday submitted detailed comments to EPA challenging the conclusions reached in the Five-Year Review Report.

DEC’s sampling effort began in June after EPA ignored the state’s request to conduct additional sampling to more accurately inform their Five-Year Review. DEC scientists are collecting samples to fully assess the current levels of surface sediment contamination in the upper Hudson River, and this week will finish collecting a total of over 1,600 sediment samples from the river. When finished, the state will analyze these samples, with results from the sampling expected this fall.

The data collected will be used to evaluate recovery rates, and to help identify areas where further action is needed to meet established remedial goals.

The EPA collected only 375 samples, or fewer than 10 samples for every mile of river, to inform the Five-Year Review Report. DEC determined that EPA’s sampling was inadequate and would not provide enough data to assess the efficacy of the remediation.