Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan Hails NYS Attorney General for Challenging GE-EPA Claims that Hudson River PCB Cleanup is Complete

Monday, September 19, 2016 -- Scenic Hudson

Jay Burgess
Director of Communications, Scenic Hudson, Inc.
Tel: (845) 473-4440 x222 Cell: (914) 489-0362 Fax: (845) 473-0740

HUDSON VALLEY—Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan praised New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for putting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on notice that General Electric’s cleanup of cancer-causing PCBs in the Hudson River has failed to meet the agency’s explicit goals and that the EPA cannot certify the work as complete under provisions of federal law.

In a September 16 letter to the EPA’s Regional Administrator Judith Enck and Emergency and Remedial Response Division Director Walter Mugdon—who negotiated and have overseen the scope of the GE cleanup—the Attorney General’s legal team noted that concentrations of PCBs in Hudson River fish remain 600 percent higher than levels required by the legally binding cleanup plan. The cleanup was expected to reach a PCB level in fish of 0.4 mg/kg by 2016. In fact, the most recent available data indicates PCB fish concentration is 2.71 mg/kg.

“Science, law, and common sense support Attorney General Schneiderman’s assertion that General Electric’s cleanup of the Hudson has failed to achieve its explicit objectives. The EPA cannot legally certify the cleanup as complete and should not do so. Instead, it should exercise its clear authority to compel GE to remove additional PCB contaminated sentiments from the upper Hudson,” said Mr. Sullivan.

A 200-mile stretch of the Hudson—from Fort Edward north of Albany and Troy down to New York Harbor—are a designated federal Superfund site due to PCB contamination discharged into the river by GE. Fish along this entire length are considered unsafe to eat due to contamination by this known carcinogen.

The attorney general’s letter also takes the EPA to task for failing to provide a revised timeline for when the project will meet its objectives, as well as for the hastiness and lack of transparency in the agency’s ongoing Five Year Review, which is intended to determine the cleanup’s success. The letter calls on the EPA to generate new data about the cleanup’s effectiveness conducted by independent scientists instead of basing its decision on data from GE scientists who relied on flawed models.

The letter from Mr. Schneiderman’s office follows and builds on the August 21 letter sent to the EPA by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos. In that letter, he stated that the DEC does not consider GE’s cleanup protective of human health and the environment. It also indicated that additional dredging will be needed to meet those goals, which were the basis of New York’s concurrence with the cleanup plan. Furthermore, DEC Commissioner Seggos made clear in his letter that the need for additional monitoring should not be an excuse for the EPA to delay a formal finding that the cleanup has failed to meet its objectives and that additional dredging is needed.

“GE’s cleanup of the upper Hudson has left hundreds of acres of sediments contaminated with PCBs at levels that will continue the river’s status as America’s largest Superfund site—a designation that is based on both environmental and health threats and that impedes economic revitalization of Hudson River waterfronts and communities,” added Mr. Sullivan.

U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who joined Mr. Sullivan at a July meeting with senior Cuomo Administration officials to make the case for additional cleanup, also has publicly called the cleanup inadequate.

The letter from the attorney general’s office can be downloaded here.

About Scenic Hudson

Scenic Hudson works to protect and restore the Hudson River and its majestic landscape as an irreplaceable national treasure and a vital resource for residents and visitors. A crusader for the valley since 1963, we are credited with saving fabled Storm King Mountain from a destructive industrial project and launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today with more than 25,000 ardent supporters, we are the largest environmental group focused on the Hudson River Valley. Our team of experts combines land acquisition, support for agriculture, citizen-based advocacy and sophisticated planning tools to create environmentally healthy communities, champion smart economic growth, open up riverfronts to the public and preserve the valley’s inspiring beauty and natural resources. To date Scenic Hudson has created or enhanced more than 65 parks, preserves and historic sites up and down the Hudson River and conserved over 35,000 acres.