Hudson River Toxic PCB Cleanup

Making continued progress in this David vs. Goliath battle to restore the health and full economic potential of the valley’s most important natural resource depends on sustained citizen action.

What’s the plan?

For 40 years, Scenic Hudson has been leading the fight for a comprehensive cleanup of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that polluter General Electric dumped in the Hudson River from the 1940s to the 1970s. Despite achieving an early victory when GE completed six years of dredging of contaminated “hotspots” in the upper Hudson (2009-2015), significant amounts of these toxins remain in the river’s water and sediment, both in dredged and undredged areas. 

In April 2019, we achieved another partial victory when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it lacked the data to determine if the cleanup had achieved its goal of being “protective of human health and the environment,” reversing its long-standing, but unsubstantiated, claim it was a success. However, the EPA simultaneously issued polluter GE a certificate of completion for the project, creating a legal hurdle to compel the company to continue the cleanup. 

In August 2019, New York State sued the EPA for issuing the certificate.

Scenic Hudson will continue our longstanding battle until the Hudson River — along with the residents of waterfront communities and the millions of people who enjoy boating and fishing on it — get the cleanup they deserve. Mobilizing citizens and communities to join our campaign is essential for achieving progress.

What’s at stake?

  • A 200-mile stretch of the river — from the foothills of the Adirondacks to New York Harbor — remains one of America’s largest Superfund sites
  • PCBs have accumulated in the land, sediment and food web all along the river, harming wildlife as well as humans who come in contact with these toxins through the water and air
  • It is unsafe to eat fish from the river, and particularly dangerous to children and women of child-bearing age 
  • PCB contamination postpones significant economic opportunities along the riverfront, as well as resumption of a once-lucrative commercial fishing industry and deep-draft shipping on the Champlain Canal
  • It also prevents the river’s fullest potential for being an engine of the valley’s tourism economy

Scenic Hudson and our partners have long fought to get GE to take responsibility for this toxic disaster. Supported by community partners and our dedicated members, we remain present at every stage of this historic remediation and continue to press for the most comprehensive cleanup possible. We will continue the fight, as long as it takes, to reclaim the Hudson’s full potential.  

How can I get involved?

Do everything possible — speak with state and local officials, draft letters to the editor—to support the Cuomo administration’s lawsuit against the EPA and to hold GE accountable for completing a cleanup the Hudson River and all New Yorkers deserve.

Soon, designated Hudson River trustee agencies (New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation, NOAA and the U.S. Dept. of the Interior) will move forward with a Natural Resource Damages Assessment (NRDA). The Superfund Law requires GE to pay to restore the Hudson River and compensate the public for the harm to natural resources its pollution caused. Through the NRDA process, the funds obtained from GE will be used to restore wildlife habitats and riverfront communities. There will be opportunities for the public to weigh in on the NRDA in the future.

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Scenic Hudson News Releases

News Release: "Cuomo Administration and State Attorney General’s Office Call on EPA Not to Let GE Quit PCB Cleanup Before it’s Done," Feb. 5, 2019

News Release: "Scenic Hudson Statement about Results of New DEC Sampling Study of PCB Contamination," Dec. 20, 2018

News Release: "Analysis Shows “Significant” PCB Recontamination Has Occurred in Dredged Areas of Upper Hudson River," Dec. 3, 2018

News Release: "Cuomo Administration and State Attorney General’s Office Call on EPA Not to Let GE Quit PCB Cleanup Before it’s Done," Nov. 29, 2017

News Release: "Flawed Data and Analysis Fatally Undermine EPA’s Findings that Hudson PCB Cleanup Will Protect Environment and Public Health," Sept. 5, 2017

News Release: "Scenic Hudson Statement on DEC Review Concluding that PCB Cleanup Fails to Protect Public Health, Environment," Dec. 20, 2016

News Release: "DEC's Independent Analysis Finds EPA's Hudson River Cleanup Fails to Protect Human Health and the Environment," Dec. 20, 2016

News Release: "Scenic Hudson Commends Members of Congress for Urging EPA to Continue Hudson River PCB Cleanup," Dec. 14, 2016

News Release:"Senator Gillibrand Urges EPA to Reverse its Decision to Stop PCB Dredging in the Upper Hudson River," Sept. 20, 2016

News Release: "Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan Hails NYS Attorney General for Challenging GE-EPA Claims that Hudson River PCB Cleanup is Complete," Sept. 19, 2016

News Release: "Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan Hails Cuomo Administration for Blowing Whistle on GE-EPA Claims Hudson River Cleanup is a Success," Aug. 22, 2016

News Release: "Enviros Say EPA Will Leave Hudson Polluted in Rush to Declare Partial PCB Cleanup a Total Success," Feb. 11, 2016

News Release: "New Report Confirms Fish Injury from Hudson River PCB Contamination," U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, April 23, 2015

Reports
Press

Help Needed from Trump, Cuomo to Halt Hudson River Threats, Ned Sullivan, Huffington Post, Jan. 31, 2017

"New York to EPA: Don’t Approve GE’s Cleanup of Hudson," Wall Street Journal, Sept. 16, 2016

 Letter to EPA from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asserting that the EPA cannot certify the cleanup as complete, Sept. 16, 2016

"G.E. Spent Years Cleaning Up the Hudson. Was It Enough?", New York Times, Sept. 8. 2016

Press Conference: "DEC Challenges Effectiveness of EPA's Remedy for Hudson River Cleanup," Aug. 22, 2016

Hillary Clinton statement "Clean Air, Clean Water are Basic Rights," April 4, 2016

"Hudson Cleanup far from Complete," op-ed by Ned Sullivan and Aaron Mair, Albany Times Union, Feb. 8, 2016

"Selling Out the Hudson," New York Times, Oct. 9, 2015