Decision on Fate of the Hudson Pending

The Hudson River is the backbone of our region and we are dedicated to protecting it. PCB contamination remains a real threat to the Hudson River, and our collective efforts to ensure proper cleanup are ongoing.

Last year, thousands of you commented on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) second Five-Year Review of the PCB cleanup. Because of this extraordinary outpouring of concern, the EPA postponed making a decision about the cleanup’s effectiveness and is collaborating with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to ensure any conclusion it reaches is based on the most current and accurate science.

While we await the EPA’s determination about the project, we continue to see overwhelming public support for a cleaner, healthier river, as well as some positive statements from the EPA itself.

Most recently:

  • Associated General Contractors of New York State—the leading voice of New York’s building and heavy highway construction industry—called for a more comprehensive PCB cleanup that would spur job creation and increase economic productivity.
  • An expert scientific analysis commissioned by Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper found that data on fish contamination used by the EPA to forecast that the cleanup “will be protective of human health and the environment” is “too unreliable” to reach this conclusion.
  • A recent poll commissioned by Scenic Hudson in the 19th Congressional District found that its residents are deeply invested in a continued PCB cleanup.
  • All three Hudson River Natural Resource Trustees tasked with overseeing the river’s restoration have expressed the compelling need to resume dredging.
  • In his 2018 State of the State address, Gov. Cuomo announced his decision to sue the federal government should the EPA determine the cleanup is “protective.”
  • Finally, EPA Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez has expressed his commitment to an enhanced engagement between the EPA and DEC, and to investigating strategies for removing PCBs from the lower Hudson.

Our fight isn’t over yet, but these are encouraging signs. Even more encouraging is your continued engagement in the fight for a PCB cleanup that achieves the goals we and future generations deserve—and that the EPA promised. We will continue to keep you updated as we continue to make progress!


The Hudson River Superfund cleanup has not done the job it was meant to do—secure the health of the river, its wildlife and the people living along it. PCB contamination in the river remains a significant threat to public health and prosperity—as it has for nearly 80 years.

What the experts are saying:

  • Following its analysis of the cleanup to date, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—a sister federal agency—concluded that “Recovery of the Upper and Lower Hudson will not be reached due to elevated PCBs remaining in surface sediment equivalent to a series of Superfund Sites being left behind.”
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cited the threat posed by PCBs remaining in the Hudson. “PCBs in the river have caused past and ongoing injury to the natural resources of the Hudson River, resulting in lost public use. Additional PCB removal and robust habitat reconstruction…will facilitate the ecological and economic recovery of the Hudson River.”
  • At the same time, following its own review of the cleanup’s effectiveness, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation found, “The Remedy is not protective of human health and the environment based on uncontrolled risks, and EPA should undertake all necessary actions to ensure that the remedy becomes fully protective to the benefit of the people of New York State.” 
  • The review makes clear that PCB levels in the fish and sediment of the Lower Hudson have not benefited at all from upriver dredging. In fact, NYSDEC and the Hudson River Foundation do not expect the dredging to result in additional improvement in the Lower Hudson River.
  • Scenic Hudson and other environmental organizations, a bipartisan group of federal and state elected representatives, and business and chamber of commerce leaders have called for more cleanup of toxic PCBs in the Hudson to secure public health and the business opportunities we deserve.

For over 30 years—from the 1940s to the 1970s—General Electric discharged an unknown amount of PCB-laced waste into the Hudson River from its capacitor manufacturing plants in upstate Hudson Falls and Fort Edward. These toxins have accumulated in the land, river sediment and food web all along the river, turning the Hudson into the largest Superfund site in America—stretching 200 miles to New York Harbor. Scenic Hudson and our partners have fought to get GE to take responsibility for this toxic disaster (with pollution estimated in the billions of pounds) and restore the river and communities along it to their full health.

After six years of dredging, a cleaner, safer Hudson is within reach—but now EPA has allowed GE to dismantle its on-river operation, abandoning the remaining toxic river sediments that federal, state and local agencies warn could set back economic and environmental recovery for decades. Supported by community partners and our dedicated members, Scenic Hudson remains present at every stage of this historic remediation and continues to press for the most comprehensive cleanup possible.

Success and a cleaner, healthier future for the Hudson depends on EPA allowing good science and decisive oversight to direct the actions of the cleanup project before it’s too late.

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan’s Huffington Post blog links poisoned-water disasters in the news with a botched cleanup of toxic Hudson River PCBs. Before the cleanup began the EPA knew there were dramatically more PCBs well beyond “hot spots” targeted for removal, but did nothing to alter its plan. The EPA is failing to protect the environment and our health. Falling short in the Hudson—the country’s largest toxic cleanup—would undercut remediation of health-threatening pollution nationwide. We need to ramp up pressure on the EPA. More than 80 municipalities, 161 state legislators, editorials from The New York Times and numerous valley papers, as well as two federal agencies have called for more dredging.

Watch the short film on EPA's Five Year Review Workshop by renowned filmmaker Jon Bowermaster

Watch the mini-documentary by Jon Bowermaster to learn more about the threats posed by the remaining PCBs in the Hudson.

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