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In Albany, Gillibrand Demands the EPA Take Action to Clean Up PCB “Forever Chemicals” in the Hudson River

Photo: Pierce Johnston

For Immediate Release


Ned Sullivan, President
914 489 4630,
Pete Lopez, Executive Director of Policy, Advocacy and Science
518 378 8039,

Senator Gillibrand’s office issued this release, which we’re sharing below with permission.

ALBANY, N.Y. – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood with local leaders and environmental advocates at Albany City Hall to demand that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) take additional action to clean up polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) “forever chemicals” in the Hudson River. PCBs are toxic manmade chemicals that can linger in water and soil for decades. Exposure is associated with a variety of serious health conditions, including cancer. From 1947 to 1977, General Electric dumped 1.2 million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson River north of Albany, and despite six years of dredging to clean it up, the concentration of toxic PCBs in the river’s fish and sediment is still elevated. Gillibrand is calling on the EPA to take additional action to clean up the river and protect the well-being of those in the area.

Gillibrand was joined by Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan; Assemblywoman Pat Fahy; Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner; NYS Senator Neil Breslin; President of Scenic Hudson Ned Sullivan; Executive Director of Policy, Advocacy and Science at Scenic Hudson Pete Lopez; President of Riverkeeper Tracy Brown; Environmental Action Director at Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Jen Benson; Northeast Regional Lead of Environmental Health at the Natural Resources Defense Council Kate Donovan; Conservation Director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Roger Downs; Environmental Chair at the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association Gil Hawkins; and Sierra Club board member Aaron Mair.

“Nearly a decade after efforts to get PCBs out of the Hudson ended, it’s clear that the cleanup hasn’t decreased PCB concentrations to target levels,” said Senator Gillibrand. “PCB contamination is still unacceptably high, and it continues to pose a risk to everyone in the area. We have to do more to ensure that the Hudson is free of these dangerous, carcinogenic pollutants that harm humans, animals, and the environment. Today, I’m calling on the EPA to acknowledge the insufficiency of the dredging remedy and to begin to investigate additional options to clean up the Hudson for good. I’m determined to get this done.” 

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “The Hudson River is a historic and beautiful natural resource, however we all know too well that PCBs continue to negatively impact the wildlife and limit the recreational opportunities along it. My administration has worked tirelessly to help clean the Hudson River, and thanks to the leadership of the Albany Water Department and Commissioner Coffey and investments from Governor Hochul and New York State, we are about to open a $50 million combined sewer overflow filtration system that will reduce the amount of floatables that end up in the Hudson River during heavy rain events and improve the quality of life of residents around Albany’s historic Lincoln Park. I am so thankful that our hometown Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, is working hard to ensure the federal government is doing its part to clean the Hudson River. We must ensure the PCB’s that were intentionally dumped by the private sector and are still found in the River are removed once and for all. Future generations are counting on us to act now, before it is too late.”

“I join Senator Gillibrand in calling on the EPA to redouble cleanup efforts in order to reduce the Hudson River’s PCB concentration to target levels. Children growing up along the Hudson deserve an environment free of carcinogens, and it’s clear that the dredging undertaken so far has not achieved that essential goal. I look forward to hearing what steps the EPA plans to take next to address this critical issue,” said New York State Senator Neil D. Breslin.

“The scientific consensus has been clear; the cleanup of PCBs in the jewel of the Capital Region — the Hudson River — is woefully incomplete,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy. “The NYS Department of Environmental Conservations reports that PCB levels in fish and across the 40-mile cleanup zone remain essentially the same and unsafe to human beings. The time is now to fully cleanup and dredge the Hudson River for future generations to save the artery that has allowed our Capital City and Region to prosper. Thank you to Senator Gillibrand for her continued commitment to ending an environmental injustice that continues to plague our communities lining the Hudson River.” 

“The communities of Hudson Falls, Fort Edward, South Glens Falls and Moreau — where the PCBs were released into the Hudson — have experienced and continue to experience health impacts from the industrial pollution that lingers because of an insufficient remedy by the EPA”, said Assemblymember Carrie Woerner. “I am grateful for Senator Gillibrand’s leadership and her call for the EPA to address the remaining PCBs with a further clean-up effort. The people who live along the Upper Hudson deserve to have a safe and healthy river.”

“We stand with Senator Gillibrand in urging EPA Administrator Michael Regan to make the right call and find that the Hudson River PCBs Superfund remedy is ‘not protective of human health and the environment.’ It is time. This is the only possible conclusion, based on the scientific data and EPA policy — particularly its commitment to Environmental Justice — as well as the importance of the Hudson River to New York’s economic, human, and environmental health,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan. “In the last Five-Year Review, EPA staff were forced to back away from a ‘protective’ determination when faced with river sediment and fish sampling data that showed the PCB contamination levels were not dropping as expected. Since that time, the data continues to clearly demonstrate that the EPA cleanup is even more off target, with continued threats to the environment and human health. The science is crystal clear. The EPA should acknowledge this and begin an honest and open assessment of what steps can be taken to reduce PCBs in the river as rapidly as possible.”

“The risks from PCBs remain at unacceptable levels in the Hudson River even though General Electric completed dredging almost nine years ago. EPA must acknowledge that the cleanup is not protective of human health and the environment,” said Tracy Brown, President of Riverkeeper. “The cleanup has failed to reduce concentrations of PCBs in fish and sediment to levels that are safe for humans and wildlife. Without effective action, the health risks and impacts to those relying on the 200-mile long Hudson River PCBs Superfund site will persist for generations. Riverkeeper thanks Senator Gillibrand for her leadership and for recognizing the strong science that can only lead to a ‘not protective’ determination.”

“People across the Hudson Valley rely on fish from the Hudson River as a food source. The data demonstrates the river is not recovering at the anticipated rate and is not on track to meet the goals established in the Record of Decision. The burden of PCB contamination of Hudson River fish unfairly rests on vulnerable communities. The data is clear, and our coalition urges EPA to acknowledge this in the upcoming Draft Five-Year Review by issuing a Not Protective Determination,” said David Toman, Executive Director of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.

“The Hudson River is one of our nation’s treasures.  And the poisoning of the River by General Electric’s dumping of millions of pounds of highly toxic PCBs over a 30-year period continues to pose a real, continuing threat to its ecosystem and public health – including to an estimated 100,000 New Yorkers throughout the Hudson Valley that rely on the River for drinking water,” said Mark A. Izeman, senior attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “Senator Gillibrand’s renewed call for U.S. EPA to not let GE off the hook with an incomplete cleanup of its massive toxic legacy shows leadership and care for this region. Without further cleanup, threats from toxic PCBs to those who rely on the River for their drinking water, livelihood, and enjoyment may continue indefinitely.

“It is clear from the most recent sampling and analysis that GE’s alleged cleanup of the Hudson River is not adequately protective of human health or the environment. The river remains significantly contaminated with PCBs and thousands of New Yorkers, many of whom represent immigrant, low income and minority communities, regularly eat the fish they catch from the Hudson for sustenance – despite the health advisories. People simply trust long-standing traditions over nuanced warnings, and barring citizens from eating fish does not represent the kind of justice Hudson River communities need. Sierra Club applauds Senator Gillibrand for recognizing that true justice requires the EPA to fund and implement a meaningful clean-up of PCBs in the river,” said Roger Downs, Conservation Director, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter.

“Communities of Color have waited for nearly a decade and a half for GE & the EPA to deliver on the protective science that should have allowed them to fish without fear. Now we call on EPA to act and call upon GE to dredge the contaminants and pay for the natural resources damages to our river,” said Aaron Mair Sierra Club National Director.

“The Hudson River Fishermen’s Association has been fighting for the Hudson for fifty-eight years. As per the Public Trust Doctrine, the fish and all living things belong to the people not to General Electric. They chose to dump PCBs in the whole river. They are its major polluter. It’s their moral and legal responsibility to clean it up,” said Gil Hawkins, Environmental Director, Hudson River Fishermen’s Association.

GE released PCBs into the Hudson River from two of its plants from 1947 to 1977. In 1984, the EPA designated a nearly 200-mile stretch of the Hudson River as a Superfund site, and in 2006, the agency mandated that GE clean a 40-mile section of the river from Fort Edward to Troy. This dredging of the Upper Hudson River, pursuant to the consent decree between EPA and GE, occurred from 2009 to 2015, but analyses of sampling data have found that significant amounts of PCBs remain in the river.

The EPA is currently developing the draft of its third five-year review (FYR) report of the Hudson River PCBs Superfund site to determine whether the dredging remedy is achieving key PCB-reduction targets established in the 2002 Record of Decision. Gillibrand is calling on the EPA to acknowledge in this upcoming third FYR report that the dredging remedy is not working as intended and to begin the process of assessing additional remedial actions. 

The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan is available here.