Manufacturers

GE Requests EPA Approval of Hudson River Clean-Up

Albany, Hudson River
Downtown Albany and the Hudson River, Albany, N.Y.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it needs to finish a review of a $1.7 billion Superfund cleanup of the Hudson River before declaring whether the job was completed properly.

The EPA told General Electric Co. in a letter Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, that it expects to finalize its review early this year. Boston-based GE asked for a “certificate of completion” a year ago and the agency was obliged to respond by Wednesday.

GE completed removal of 2.75 million cubic yards (2.1 million cubic meters) of polychlorinated biphenyl-contaminated sediment from the Hudson River in 2015, toxic pollution from the production of transformers, capacitors, and electric motors that occurred between 1947 and 1977, and is now awaiting approval from the EPA that the job is complete. Critics pushing for a broader cleanup say too much PCB-contaminated sediment remains in the river.

In early December, GE agreed to spend $20 million testing soil in the river’s flood plain along the 40-mile-long stretch of river where it completed dredging 2.75 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment in 2015.

But it hasn’t agreed to remove soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, which are suspected of causing cancer and other health problems. That will require a legal agreement negotiated with the Environmental Protection Agency.

An actual cleanup project in flood plain areas is at least five years away, after soil testing now underway is completed, followed by a human health impact study and designing a cleanup plan.

In the flood plain phase of the cleanup, GE has analyzed more than 7,000 samples from 3,000 locations so far, company spokesman Mark Behan said. About 80 percent of samples showed no PCBs or very low levels.

In areas with higher PCB levels that are used by the public, GE has done about 60 urgent projects including covering contaminated areas at a park and a kayak launch with rocks and sand.

After the DEC’s tests over the summer showed elevated PCB levels in the old canal, the agency requested that the EPA do further sampling to determine if such an emergency action is needed to protect people who use the park.

An EPA spokeswoman said GE took samples from the old canal and areas susceptible to flooding, including the Fort Hardy Park.

The EPA has said that, based on existing data, it does not appear as though more dredging is needed.

New York state officials and other critics pushing for a broader cleanup say too much PCB-contaminated sediment remains in the river.

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