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Scenic Hudson Commends Members of Congress for Urging EPA to Continue Hudson River PCB Cleanup

Ned Sullivan
President, Scenic Hudson, Inc.
Tel: (845) 473-4440 x224

Letter asks EPA to complete review prior to administration changeover

HUDSON VALLEY—Scenic Hudson commends 15 members of New York State’s Congressional delegation who signed a letter urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to declare that the Superfund cleanup of Hudson River PCBs has failed to meet the project’s standards to restore public and environmental health. Specifically, the letter asks the EPA to expedite its Five Year Review of the cleanup so the agency can determine the need for additional remediation prior to the administration’s changeover in January.

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey took the lead in drafting the letter and soliciting fellow Congressional members to sign on. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who also have provided strong public leadership on this issue, played important roles as well.

The letter was signed by Representatives Nita Lowey, Sean Patrick Maloney, Yvette Clarke, Joseph Crowley, Eliot Engel, Steve Israel, Hakeem Jeffries, Carolyn Maloney, Grace Meng, Jerrold Nadler, Kathleen Rice, Jose Serrano, Louise Slaughter, Nydia Velazquez and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

“Rep. Nita Lowey—a longtime champion of a clean Hudson River—has shown strong leadership in drafting this letter, and the signatures of so many members of the Hudson Valley Congressional delegation and Sen. Gillibrand demonstrate the importance of this call for a comprehensive cleanup. Our federal officials join Gov. Cuomo, state legislators, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, and business and environmental leaders in demanding the EPA heed the science and find that the cleanup to date fails to meet the agency’s explicit goals,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan.

Letter states cleanup must continue to make river healthy

The letter, sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on December 2 acknowledges the agency’s diligence in overseeing the cleanup of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that General Electric (GE) dumped in the river from 1947 to 1977. However, it takes the agency to task for declaring the cleanup a success and allowing GE to remove its dredging equipment from the river before conducting the mandatory Five-Year Review intended to determine the project’s effectiveness.

Stating that “current data suggests more work must be done to reduce PCBs to acceptable levels and protect the environmental health of the river and the public health of millions of people who live along it,” the letter calls on the EPA “to expeditiously determine through its ongoing five year review that the existing remedy is insufficient and that additional cleanup is required, before the change in Administration.”

Data supports need for continued cleanup

The letter cites data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and New York State Office of the Attorney General indicating that PCB levels in fish remain 600 percent above objectives set under the 2002 Record of Decision (ROD) for the Hudson River Superfund project. “Unless more contaminated sediment is removed from the Hudson, fish consumption advisories will remain in place for decades, jeopardizing the health of communities that depend on the river’s fish for sustenance,” the letter states.

The letter also references “frightening data” showing that PCB concentrations in river sediment are two to three times higher than estimated at the time the cleanup remedy was determined. Highlighting this contamination’s widespread impact, the letter cites the EPA’s own acknowledgment that 70 percent of the PCBs in New York-New Jersey Harbor that must be dredged to facilitate water-based commerce originated from GE’s manufacturing plants 200 miles upriver.

“The continuing cost of addressing this contamination is being unfairly borne by the public and represents a lost economic potential,” the letter declares.

“The EPA must use its authority to require General Electric to perform additional cleanup before it may legally certify the remediation as complete. Until it does, our American Heritage River will remain America’s largest Superfund site, impeding economic revitalization in Hudson Riverfront communities from the Adirondacks foothills to New York Harbor,” adds Mr. Sullivan.

Download the letter here.

About Scenic Hudson

Scenic Hudson works to protect and restore the Hudson River and its majestic landscape as an irreplaceable national treasure and a vital resource for residents and visitors. A crusader for the valley since 1963, we are credited with saving fabled Storm King Mountain from a destructive industrial project and launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today with more than 25,000 ardent supporters, we are the largest environmental group focused on the Hudson River Valley. Our team of experts combines land acquisition, support for agriculture, citizen-based advocacy and sophisticated planning tools to create environmentally healthy communities, champion smart economic growth, open up riverfronts to the public and preserve the valley’s inspiring beauty and natural resources. To date Scenic Hudson has created or enhanced more than 65 parks, preserves and historic sites up and down the Hudson River and conserved almost 40,000 acres.