Skip to content

Scenic Hudson Commends U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Calling Out Threat Posed by Hudson River PCBs

Jay Burgess
Director of Communications, Scenic Hudson, Inc.
Tel: (845) 473-4440 x222 Cell: (914) 489-0362 Fax: (845) 473-0740

Federal, state agencies overseeing river’s restoration united in urging EPA to require GE to conduct additional cleanup

HUDSON VALLEY—Scenic Hudson commends the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for strongly restating the continued threat posed by PCBs remaining in the Hudson River—and for calling for additional cleanup of these toxins. This means that all three Hudson River Natural Resource Trustees tasked with overseeing the river’s restoration now have expressed the compelling need for a more comprehensive PCB cleanup. The USFWS joins the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and New York State in urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require polluter General Electric (GE) to conduct more dredging.

In a letter sent to the EPA on December 13, USFWS Hudson River Case Manager Kathryn Jahn states: “PCBs in the river have caused past and ongoing injury to the natural resources of the Hudson River, resulting in lost public use of those natural resources. Those injuries extend for over 200 miles, have lasted for decades, and will continue into the future. The PCB contamination adversely impacts recreational fishing and hunting through consumption advisories, and has potential adverse impacts to birds…and other wildlife.” The letter goes on to note that the trustees’ options to restore river habitats could be hampered by the “concentration of PCB contamination that remains…in the river.”

The letter concludes by stating that: “We share, with EPA and our co-Trustees, a goal of the successful recovery of the Hudson River—a nationally significant ecological, cultural, and economic resource—from PCB contamination. We believe additional PCB removal and robust habitat reconstruction…will accelerate the recovery of the river and its resources, which will reduce the restoration required and facilitate the ecological and economic recovery of the Hudson River.”

Letter builds on previous call for EPA to prevent GE from dismantling dredging operations

Based on a NOAA analysis indicating that significantly greater amounts of PCBs remain in the Upper Hudson River than the EPA anticipated following the six years of dredging GE completed in 2015, both NOAA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) earlier called on the EPA to commit to a resumption of the cleanup. Last November, the DEC and New York’s Office of the Attorney General also urged the EPA to refrain from issuing GE the Certificate of Completion it has requested until the Superfund project achieves its federally mandated goal to be “protective of human health and the environment.”

In addition, the Cuomo administration—along with Scenic Hudson and other environmental organizations, a bipartisan group of federal and state elected officials, chambers of commerce throughout the Hudson Valley and union leaders—have called on the EPA to conclude in its Five-Year Review that the cleanup currently is “not protective” and to eliminate the forecast contained in its draft review that it “will be protective” in 55 years without additional dredging. Based on scientific data, both NOAA and the DEC have determined that without a more comprehensive cleanup, it will take generations longer than that for the river to recover.

In 2015, the USFWS and NOAA sent a joint letter to Judith Enck, then the EPA Region 2 Administrator overseeing the Hudson River Superfund project, explicitly calling on her to halt GE from decommissioning its cleanup facilities until her agency had completed its Five-Year Review. At that time, estimates indicated that two additional years of dredging would significantly speed up the river’s recovery. Ms. Enck ignored their request and allowed GE to dismantle its operations—increasing the costs to resume dredging today. GE also faces Natural Resource Damage claims to restore habitats impacted by PCB contamination.

“Scenic Hudson applauds the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for powerfully restating its findings that PCBs in the upper Hudson River continue to compromise the environmental and economic potential of the Hudson River as well as the health of people who consume its contaminated fish. USF&W is right in asking the Environmental Protection Agency to compel General Electric to resume the cleanup of toxic PCBs it dumped in the river. All of the river’s Natural Resource Trustees are united in calling for more dredging—something that could have happened much sooner, and at much less cost, if the EPA had heeded the trustees’ recommendation to prevent GE from dismantling its dredging operations. GE must be required to finish the job,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan.

About Scenic Hudson

Scenic Hudson helps citizens and communities preserve land and farms and create parks where people experience the outdoors and enjoy the Hudson River. We also bring together people, businesses and government to protect the river and natural resources that are the engines of the valley’s local economies. Started in 1963 by a handful of citizens who cherished the simple pleasures of the outdoors along the Hudson, Scenic Hudson is credited with launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today, in the face of new challenges and the effects of climate change, we are dedicated to making the Hudson Valley a great place to live, work and play. Our focus is on strengthening and maximizing benefits all can enjoy from the region’s great assets—beautiful open spaces, working farms, and vibrant cities and town centers.