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.

Quick overview

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. 

Every five years, the EPA is required to review the PCB cleanup process and determine if it is complete or if there is more to be done. The next review is expected to be made public by the end of 2023.

In anticipation of the release of the EPA’s review, Friends of a Clean Hudson released a report in November 2023 detailing how the dredging of the Upper Hudson River is not working as intended to protect human health and the environment. Read the executive summary here. 

Our position is clear: Despite the removal of large quantities of contaminated soil, the science shows that cleanup efforts have not worked as intended to protect human health and the environment. 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. Learn more about this campaign here.

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

  • The contamination has caused a growing environmental justice issue:
    • A Scenic Hudson survey indicated that low-income anglers in the lower Hudson who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color are most likely to consume fish in levels exceeding state Department of Health advisories. 
    • Many immigrant populations also rely on fish from the river as part of their diet, and there are a number of fish species that have not been investigated for PCB contamination levels. 
    • Of the 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 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 partners have long fought for GE to take responsibility for their toxic dumping. 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?

  • Email Lisa Garcia, EPA Region 2 Administrator. Ask EPA to acknowledge the upper Hudson River dredging is “not protective of human health and the environment” and hold General Electric accountable for its pollution.

  • Read the report and speak with 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

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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