Skip to content

Survey Indicates Overwhelming Public Support for Continuing Hudson River PCB Cleanup

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

By 5-1 margin, voters polled in 19th Congressional District say additional dredging is needed

HUDSON VALLEY—A survey of registered voters in New York’s 19th Congressional District indicates overwhelming public support for continuing the Hudson River PCB cleanup—with 61 percent of respondents believing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should require General Electric (GE) to conduct additional dredging.

EPA is in the late stages of completing a mandatory Five Year Review of the effectiveness of the Hudson River PCB cleanup. In this context, it conducted a 90-day public comment period on its Draft Five Year Review, and held three public meetings where hundreds of citizens spoke out in favor of additional cleanup. Over 2,000 comments were filed with EPA on the draft. The agency’s efforts to gather public input underscore the importance of public opinion in the EPA’s deliberations over the pending decisions.

The survey was undertaken for Scenic Hudson by Global Strategy Group, one of the nation’s top public relations and research firms. Among its key findings:

  • Voters believing in the need for a more comprehensive cleanup exceed those who feel that GE’s cleanup has been sufficient by a five-to-one margin—61 percent to 11 percent. After being informed that state and national leaders—including Gov. Cuomo, heads of local business groups and the Department of the Interior—have all declared that the river remains polluted and GE must continue its cleanup, the number of respondents indicating that the EPA should require GE to conduct additional dredging jumped to 75 percent, with 10 percent indicating GE has sufficiently cleaned up the river.
  • Voters supporting a more comprehensive cleanup include 73 percent of registered Democrats, 56 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Independents. After being told that state and national authorities and heads of local business groups have all declared that the river is still polluted and GE must conduct more dredging, respondents in favor of continuing the cleanup rose to 85 percent of registered Democrats, 69 percent of Republicans and 71 percent of Independents.
  • Demonstrating intense support for continuing the cleanup, a majority of respondents say this issue will impact their vote in November—with 58 percent indicating that if a public official in their area were to call on the EPA to compel GE to continue its cleanup, it would make them more likely to support that official.

The 19th Congressional District comprises all or part of five counties impacted by PCB pollution—Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Rensselaer and Ulster.

“This survey provides compelling additional evidence that the EPA and GE stand alone in defending the adequacy of the PCB cleanup. It indicates that citizens in the 19th Congressional District—which represents many riverfront communities whose residents and communities continue to suffer adverse health and economic impacts from PCB contamination—are overwhelmingly in favor of GE resuming the work needed to restore the river and improve their quality of life. Furthermore, the survey shows that people care so much about a cleaner Hudson that they are prepared to take action. They’ll support public officials who share their conviction and willingness to act for a comprehensive cleanup,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan.

Valley residents united with government officials, business leaders in calling for additional cleanup

Mr. Sullivan noted: “Residents in the 19th Congressional District stand united with a broad range of advocates calling for additional cleanup. Senior Trump appointees at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have affirmed their agencies’ longstanding positions that more dredging is required to restore the natural resources for which they are trustees under federal law. Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have promised to sue the EPA if it issues a Certificate of Completion for the project. Letters calling for additional cleanup have been sent to the EPA by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and 16 members of the Congressional caucus, 164 state legislators and six of the region’s county executives. Business and union leaders also urged the EPA to resume the cleanup, calling the existing contamination a major obstacle to job creation.”

The EPA is expected to release its Final Five Year Review shortly. Advocates have called for the agency to conclude that the cleanup currently is not “protective of human health and the environment”—the mandated goal of any Superfund project—and delete a forecast in its draft review that the cleanup “will be protective” in 53 or more years. A “not protective” ruling would pave the way for the EPA to order GE to resume dredging. Without this work, research by NOAA scientists indicates it will take well into the 22nd century for the river to recover from PCB pollution, further delaying ambitious economic opportunities along the river and posing a continuing threat to families who subsist on tainted fish despite health advisories, including a warning that women of childbearing age and children eat no fish at all.

Advocates also have urged the EPA to refrain from issuing GE a Certificate of Completion, which would relieve the company of liability for future cleanup work, until the project is “protective.”

For more information about the survey and additional results, download this summary.

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.