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Dredging on Hudson River 2012
Dredging on Hudson River 2012 (Photo: Peretz Partensky on Flickr (CC BY-SA-2.0))

PCB Cleanup Update

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A June 4, 2020, article in Politico reported that levels of PCB toxins in Hudson River fish have not changed significantly over the last 2 years. This raises even more doubts about the effectiveness of the Superfund cleanup conducted by General Electric to remove these cancer-causing chemicals it dumped in the Hudson River for most of the mid-20th century.

Conservation groups, including Scenic Hudson, say this lack of improvement fortifies their argument that the cleanup will not meet the goal mandated by the U.S. Superfund Law—to be “protective of human health and the environment”—without conducting more dredging at PCB “hotspots” just downriver from Hudson Falls and Fort Edward, where the pollution originated. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency, which is overseeing the cleanup, insists it’s still too early to gauge the success of the 6 years of dredging GE conducted between 2009 and 2015. Compelling GE to resume dredging will be nearly impossible unless New York State prevails in its ongoing lawsuit against the EPA. The suit contends the agency issued GE a “certificate of completion” for the project despite scientific evidence that it had failed to reach health benchmarks.

No Cleanup Yet in Lower Hudson

While a 200-mile stretch of the Hudson remains polluted, making it one of the nation’s largest Superfund sites, data indicate that fish in the 140 miles of the river below the Troy Dam have not experienced even the modest (but below-expectation) drop in contamination levels experienced upriver—hence the article’s title, “Tale of 2 rivers.”

“EPA is dragging their feet. They know they have the authority to order a remedial investigation,” said Scenic Hudson’s Althea Mullarkey in an interview. “They’re just choosing not to.”

Fishing at Long Dock Park, Beacon, NY
Fishing at Long Dock Park, Beacon, NY (Photo: John Halpern)

For the last 3 years, the EPA has insisted it’s working on a plan to remove this pollution, which reaches all the way to New York Harbor. While the EPA keeps “dragging their feet,” as Scenic Hudson Public Policy and Special Projects Analyst Althea Mullarkey is quoted in the article, families who subsist on tainted fish despite health warnings and communities whose waterfront redevelopment plans have been stalled by the contamination continue to wait. So do members of low-income and minority communities along the lower Hudson who fought hard for a PCB cleanup and have received no benefits to date.

Second Superfund Phase Also Moving Slowly

Since 1998, evaluating another aspect of GE’s cleanup commitment—the amount of money the company will be required to pay to restore damaged habitats and offset lost recreational opportunities—has been ongoing. Trustees overseeing this Natural Resource Damages Assessment include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation. While the trustees have released information about some of the damages they’re investigating, they have issued no deadline for completing their assessment. As Ms. Mullarkey says in the article, “glaciers are speedier.”

Scenic Hudson has been leading the campaign for a comprehensive PCB cleanup for more than 40 years. A consultant hired by the organization to complete a damages assessment is expected to release its report next year.

Dredging on Hudson River 2012 (Photo: Peretz Partensky on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0))

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Hudson Valley Viewfinder is a collaborative, community digital magazine sharing what inspires us about the beautiful Hudson Valley. We publish original stories and multimedia content about all things sustainable in the region along the Hudson River — including agriculture, science, wildlife, outdoor recreation, green transportation, environmental justice, and more.

Our mission is to immerse you in the storied history, fresh happenings, and coming solutions for making the Hudson Valley greener and more livable long-term.

Viewfinder is published by Scenic Hudson, the celebrated nonprofit credited with launching the modern grassroots environmental movement in 1963. With over 25,000 passionate supporters, Scenic Hudson’s mission is to sustain and enhance the Hudson Valley’s inspirational beauty and health for generations to come. Viewfinder supports that mission, because the better people understand what makes this place special, the more they will invest in protecting it. 

Keep up with the latest stories by subscribing to Scenic Hudson’s monthly digital newsletter, and connect with us on social via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Threads.

Our mission is to immerse you in the storied history, fresh happenings, and coming solutions for making the Hudson Valley greener and more livable long-term.

Viewfinder is published by Scenic Hudson, the celebrated nonprofit credited with launching the modern grassroots environmental movement in 1963. With over 25,000 passionate supporters, Scenic Hudson’s mission is to sustain and enhance the Hudson Valley’s inspirational beauty and health for generations to come. Viewfinder supports that mission, because the better people understand what makes this place special, the more they will invest in protecting it. 

Keep up with the latest stories by subscribing to Scenic Hudson’s monthly digital newsletter, and connect with us on social via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Threads.

Lynn Freehill-Maye
Managing Editor
editorial@scenichudson.org 

Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

Lynn Freehill-Maye
Managing Editor
editorial@scenichudson.org 

Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

We’re always looking for ideas around our main topic areas of Climate Solutions, Land + Air + Water, Plants + Animals, History + Culture, Outdoors, and Community.
  • Journalists and writers who have deep familiarity with New York and the Hudson Valley, we’d love to have you contribute! Please do introduce yourself by email, sharing writing samples and any relevant pitches you may have.
  • Photographers and videographers, we’d love to hear from you and see what you do. Please send along a portfolio with images or footage that showcases your best and/or most relevant work, with an emphasis on anything captured outdoors. 
  • Illustrators, we commission artwork on the regular. Drop us a note with some of the beauty you’ve created.
  • Media Partners & Social Media Influencers, we welcome opportunities to team up on series and campaigns. Reach out with any background about yourselves and your ideas.
We’re always looking for ideas around our main topic areas of Climate Solutions, Land + Air + Water, Plants + Animals, History + Culture, Outdoors, and Community.
  • Journalists and writers who have deep familiarity with New York and the Hudson Valley, we’d love to have you contribute! Please do introduce yourself by email, sharing writing samples and any relevant pitches you may have.
  • Photographers and videographers, we’d love to hear from you and see what you do. Please send along a portfolio with images or footage that showcases your best and/or most relevant work, with an emphasis on anything captured outdoors. 
  • Illustrators, we commission artwork on the regular. Drop us a note with some of the beauty you’ve created.
  • Media Partners & Social Media Influencers, we welcome opportunities to team up on series and campaigns. Reach out with any background about yourselves and your ideas.
  • We love to collaborate with media outlets, especially on episodic series (like these) of interest to our shared audiences. Past collaborations have included radio interviews, panel discussions and other events, original artwork, and e-blasts, all furthering the campaign’s excitement and reach. 
  • We also love to partner with other organizations whose missions align with Scenic Hudson’s. Feel free to reach out with some background on your group and its work.
  • Writers, photographers, and creatives, if you have an idea for a series or content campaign that might be a good fit, drop us a line!

Businesses, please note that as a nonprofit, Scenic Hudson is restricted from advertising or promoting for-profit companies, through Viewfinder or other outlets. While we understand content managers may wish to alert us to your company’s role in a relevant topic, we are unable to add links to businesses to our stories.

  • We love to collaborate with media outlets, especially on episodic series (like these) of interest to our shared audiences. Past collaborations have included radio interviews, panel discussions and other events, original artwork, and e-blasts, all furthering the campaign’s excitement and reach. 
  • We also love to partner with other organizations whose missions align with Scenic Hudson’s. Feel free to reach out with some background on your group and its work.
  • Writers, photographers, and creatives, if you have an idea for a series or content campaign that might be a good fit, drop us a line!

Businesses, please note that as a nonprofit, Scenic Hudson is restricted from advertising or promoting for-profit companies, through Viewfinder or other outlets. While we understand content managers may wish to alert us to your company’s role in a relevant topic, we are unable to add links to businesses to our stories.

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