September 20, 2016

Senator Gillibrand Urges EPA To Reverse Its Decision To Stop PCB Dredging In The Upper Hudson River

Gillibrand: Irresponsible for EPA to stop PCB dredging before the job is finished

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse its decision to stop polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) dredging in the Upper Hudson River. 

“PCB dredging in the Hudson River should not have been stopped before the job was finished, and I urge the EPA to reverse its decision that dredging was complete,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “EPA required dredging of the Hudson River in 2002 in order to remove PCBs so that the Hudson River ecosystem can eventually return to normal, yet new science shows that the original goals have not been fully met.  We have come a long way over the last decade to clean up the Hudson River, but if we don’t follow through with dredging now, we will end up squandering our opportunity to make the Hudson River clean and safe for wildlife and for the communities that rely on the river.” 

“Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's letter calling on EPA to require GE to conduct additional cleanup of its Hudson River PCBs demonstrates the strong and decisive leadership needed to achieve a clean and healthy Hudson,” said Ned Sullivan, President of Scenic Hudson. “General Electric's PCBs continue to foul our Hudson River, contaminating its fish and aquatic life, making the air unsafe to breathe and contaminating drinking water supplies.  EPA has the authority, indeed the obligation, to require additional dredging.  The health of the Hudson Valley and its economy depend on the additional cleanup Senator Gillibrand is demanding.” 

“The Five Year Review process by EPA must be transparent, inclusive, and result in a meaningful review of the data,” said Paul Gallay, President of Riverkeeper. “That data will show that the cleanup of the Hudson River done by GE is not protective of human health and the environment. EPA must use this opportunity to figure out exactly how much and where additional dredging needs to take place to ensure the goals of the cleanup are actually met. Riverkeeper thanks Senator Gillibrand for stepping up and putting the health of the river and our communities first. We ask EPA to do the same.”

In September 2015, Senator Gillibrand talked to EPA to discuss GE’s cleanup of the Hudson River. Earlier this year in April, she questioned EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy about this issue during a Senate Environment and Public Works hearing.

In August, New York State called on EPA to reexamine its cleanup to effectively protect public health and the environment over the long term. 

The full text of the letter is below: 

The Honorable Gina McCarthy

Administrator

Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20460 

Dear Administrator McCarthy, 

I am writing to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reevaluate and reverse the decision to stop polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) dredging in the Hudson River. Last month, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation wrote to EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, expressing his department’s concerns with the amount of PCBs remaining in parts of the Hudson River.  I share those concerns that dredging is not complete, and remaining PCBs continue to pose a threat to the Hudson River and those who rely on it. 

Without additional dredging, PCB hotspots continue to remain in the Hudson River. The remaining contamination will result in continued injury to natural resources and slow the economic and ecological recovery of the river. Navigational channels will remain contaminated, and highly contaminated areas will remain adjacent to dredged areas meaning recontamination is to be expected. 

As we have previously discussed, analyses have indicated that fish in the Lower Hudson River will not achieve the protective goals outlined in the 2002 Record of Decision (ROD) until decades later. This is because data collected after the 2002 ROD demonstrate that pre-remedial sediment concentrations in the Upper River were 2-3 times higher and decay rates were greatly overestimated relative to values generated by models used to support remedy selection. These result in 3-5 times higher estimates of post-remedy PCB sediment concentrations and Lower River fish that will remain unacceptably contaminated for decades longer. Upper river fish will also take much longer to achieve protective goals of the ROD.  EPA’s 5-year review of the Hudson River dredging should fully consider this new data. 

The federal government has a responsibility to ensure that the Hudson River is protected, and that the damage inflicted upon it by previous generations does not prevent future generations from safely enjoying its many natural resources.  I hope that the EPA will listen to the concerns of New York State, as well the other federal trustees, and ensure that the river is fully cleaned-up. 

Thank you for your consideration in this urgent matter. Please do not hesitate to reach out my office should you have any questions or concerns. 

Sincerely, 

Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senator