Hudson River Toxic PCB Cleanup

Scenic Hudson is an integral part of the decades-long efforts to heal the Hudson from its legacy-PCB contamination

Decades of toxic pollution in an American Heritage River.

UPDATE
Long-awaited EPA report on toxic PCB cleanup of Hudson River is dangerously wrong, overlooks scientific evidence. Read more below!

For over 40 years, Scenic Hudson has been leading the fight for a comprehensive cleanup of millions of pounds of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that General Electric dumped in the Hudson River from the 1940s to the 1970s. PCBs, known as one of the original “forever chemicals” because they don’t readily break down in the environment, have been linked to many negative human health effects including neurological disabilities, heart damage, asthma, cancer and diabetes.

In 1984, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deemed a 200-mile stretch of the river — from Hudson Falls in the Adirondack foothills to the Battery in New York City — a federal Superfund site. Despite the fact that GE completed six years of dredging of contaminated “hotspots” in the upper Hudson (2009-2015), significant amounts of this toxic substance remains in the river’s water, sediment, and fish.

Every five years, the EPA is required to review the PCB cleanup process and determine if it is working as anticipated and is “protective of human health and the environment.” In 2018, the EPA decided to “defer” the determination until more fish tissue data could be gathered.

We strongly disagree with this finding.

In November 2023, Friends of a Clean Hudson, a coalition of environmental organizations including Scenic Hudson, released a report detailing how the dredging of the Upper Hudson River is not working as intended. This independent analysis found that neither fish nor sediment are recovering at the rates needed to achieve key goals first laid out in the 2002 Superfund Record of Decision. Alarmingly, it also indicated PCB concentrations will remain at dangerous levels for many more decades. (The National Academy of Sciences calls PCBs “the largest potential carcinogenic risk of any environmental contaminant for which measurements exist.”) Read the executive summary here.

The science is crystal clear.

We have been joined by an increasingly vocal, bipartisan group of regional political leaders, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressmen Pat Ryan and Marcus Molinaro, who are determined to get the PCB cleanup on the right track.

 

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 and humans who come in contact with these toxic pollutants 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.

     

  • The contamination has caused a growing environmental justice issue:
    • Many immigrant populations rely on fish from the river as part of their diet. A Scenic Hudson and Sierra Club survey indicated anglers in groups such as Latinos and African Americans are most likely to consume fish in levels exceeding state Department of Health advisories.
    • Of the fish species that have been surveyed, PCB levels are 10 or more times higher than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s standards for safe consumption.
  • PCB contamination postpones significant economic opportunities along the riverfront, as well as resumption of a once-lucrative commercial fishing industry.

     

  • It also prevents the river’s fullest potential for contributing to the region’s vital tourism economy.

Scenic Hudson and partners have long fought for GE to take responsibility for their toxic dumping. Scenic Hudson will continue this fight so that all residents and visitors — particularly subsistence fishers and residents of waterfront communities — get the cleanup they deserve.

How can I get involved?

  • With just a few clicks you can send a message to EPA and let them know: You strongly disagree with this finding and want them to admit that the PCB cleanup has not worked. The 90-day comment period ends on October 8, 2024.
  • Read the FOCH report and reach out to your state and local officials to push for a cleanup that the Hudson River and all New Yorkers deserve.
  • Stay informed about this campaign!

Success Stories

RESOURCES

Supplemental Findings: “Hudson River PCBs Site Proposed Second Five Year Review–Supplement to Technical Review,” Feb. 2019, PDF 3.8 MB

Summary Findings: “Hudson River PCBs Site Proposed Second Five Year Review Report – Technical Review” June 2017, PDF 320K

Summary: Technical Review of EPA Five-Year Review, Sept. 5, 2017

NYSDEC Independent Analysis, Dec. 20, 2016

NYSDEC Independent Report: “Recommendations to EPA for the ‘Five Year Review Report’ for Hudson River PCBs Site,” Dec. 20, 2016

Report: “Hudson River Angler Study,” Scenic Hudson and Sierra Club, Dec. 2016 

Report: “Hudson River Fish Advisory Outreach Project, 2009-2016 Project Update,” NYS Department of Health, Oct. 2016

Report: Preliminary Results of Hudson River Fish Consumption Surveys, NYS Department of Health, Sept. 2016

Advocates fault timeline in EPA’s third five-year review of Hudson River cleanup, WAMC, July 11, 2024

Clean river advocates deliver blistering rejection of EPA’s latest PCBs draft reportThe Croton Chronicle, July 10, 2024

Commentary: The Hudson River PCBs cleanup has failed, and the EPA needs to act, Pete Lopez and Aaron Mair, Times Union, June 21, 2024

Ryan, Molinaro urge further Hudson River PCB cleanup in letter to EPADaily Freeman, April 16, 2024

As EPA prepares Hudson River report, NYS lawmakers and advocates say cleanup not completeWAMC, March 22, 2024

Senator Pete Harckham Statement: “Harckham, Legislators and Advocates Lead Call for EPA to Oversee Full Cleanup of PCBs in the Hudson,” March, 21, 2024 

Sen Gillibrand “Demands” EPA Clean Up PCB-in-the-Hudson Mess, Radio Kingston, February 26, 2024

Editorial: Do the Right Thing, EPATimes Union, February 26, 2024

NY lawmakers demand EPA dredge Hudson River againPublic News Service, February 23, 2024

Gillibrand calls for Hudson River clean upWNYT, February 15, 2024

Report: Cleanup Falling ShortHighlands Current, November 17, 2023

Environmental groups call dredging of Hudson ‘failure’ in new report, Times Union, November 16, 2023

Advocates want more cleanup as EPA conducts third five-year review of Hudson River PCB removalWAMC, November 15, 2023

Hudson River PCBs: Molinaro, Ryan join forces seeking proper cleanupDaily Freeman, April 8, 2023

Hinchey calls on Gov. Hochul to ensure GE finishes Hudson PCB cleanupWAMC, November 1, 2022

General Electric agrees to study lower Hudson for PCBsTimes Union, September 13, 2022

Hudson River recovery: EPA begins next PCB contaminant review; here’s what it meansPoughkeepsie Journal, April 20, 2022

Report: Hudson River PCBs caused $11.4B in damages, News 10, April 12, 2022

EPA once again will assess PCB cleanup of the Hudson River, Times Union, April 19, 2022

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

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