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Why waffle about PCBs in the Hudson?

April 12, 2019 10:01 pm

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its five-year report on the Hudson River dredging project by General Electric to clean up PCBs, deferring a determination about the effectiveness of the effort was not what environmentalists and officials expected.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Attorney General Letitia James announced the state intends to sue the EPA, claiming the agency failed to meet the goals of the PCB-dredging project and that the remaining contaminants pose a danger to public health and the environment.

PCBs are polychlorinated biphenyls, contaminants released into the Hudson River by GE between 1947 and 1977. About 1.3 million pounds of PCBs were estimated to be discharged into the river from two GE plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, about 50 miles north of Albany.

U.S. EPA Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez said the agency had made its determination in a years-long effort to recover from decades of contamination, but the choice to defer the ruling fell short of the definitive conclusion hoped for by local governments and watchdog groups.

“Scenic Hudson is deeply disappointed in EPA’s decision to issue General Electric a Certificate of Completion for the cleanup while at the same time admitting that the cleanup has not been successful,” said Hayley Carlock, director of environmental advocacy for Scenic Hudson. “They issued the Certificate of Completion despite the fact that the goals have not been met and will limit EPA’s ability to get GE back into the river to do PCB removal.”

What Scenic Hudson and other environmental groups are saying is that the EPA can’t have it both ways. You can’t give GE a complete grade in one breath and, in the next, say the cleanup failed.

The best course of action now is for the EPA to demand GE to go back out on the river and finish what it started. The EPA can do better than waffle about a toxic chemical polluting the lifeblood of the Hudson Valley.

Dioxins don’t deteriorate. The Hudson only drops 6’ from origin to the ocean. So, ideal for wildlife and estuaries, but also ideal holder of poisons.