EPA to Release Second Five-Year Review on the Hudson River PCBs

As the Environmental Protection Agency is about to release a second five-year review of the Hudson River Superfund site to determine whether the dredging remedy is complete, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are calling on EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler to deny a certificate of completion to General Electric at this time.

Photo courtesy of EPA

This comes on the heels of a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation report (presented last December) which found that PCB contamination caused by GE has not consistently improved since GE stopped cleanup efforts, and that contaminants present in the river continue to pose a risk to human health and the environment.

The bottom line is that the clean-up of PCBs is not complete – far too much of this toxin remains in the Hudson River and more must be done to remove it before EPA can say ‘mission accomplished’,” said Senator Schumer. “The EPA must work with GE and impacted communities up and down the Hudson to set forth a plan to remove the remaining PCB pollution to protect public health, to preserve the river and to ensure it is a vibrant resource for current and future generations.”

The EPA should not issue a Certificate of Completion for the Hudson River dredging until we have more data that show this remedy actually worked,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Clean water is a right, and we must ensure that we are doing everything possible to fully clean up the Hudson River for future generations.

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a group of manufactured chemicals that were widely used as fire insulators in the manufacturing of electrical devices. GE released PCBs into the Hudson River from two of its plants from 1947 to 1977.

In 2002, the EPA designated the Hudson River as a Superfund Site, and in 2006, mandated that GE clean of a 40-mile section of the upper river from Fort Edward to Troy.

Dredging of the Hudson River, pursuant to the consent decree between EPA and GE, ended in 2015, but analysis by New York State, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have found that significant amounts of PCBs remain in the river.

The latest report by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, based on comprehensive soil and fish sampling, confirms there are PCBs still in the Hudson and that the PCB concentrations have not significantly decreased since the dredging stopped.

The full text of the Senators’ letter to the EPA can be found here.