Washington, DC – As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prepares a second five-year review of the Hudson River Superfund site to determine whether the dredging remedy is complete, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are calling on EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler to deny a certificate of completion to General Electric at this time. The EPA is expected to soon issue its final report on the Second 5-Year Review of the Hudson River Superfund cleanup. This comes on the heels of a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation report, released last December, which found that PCB contamination caused by GE has not consistently improved since GE stopped cleanup efforts, and that contaminants present in the river continue to pose a risk to human health and the environment.
“The bottom line is that the clean-up of PCBs is not complete – far too much of this toxin remains in the Hudson River and more must be done to remove it before EPA can say ‘mission accomplished’,” said Senator Schumer. “The EPA must work with GE and impacted communities up and down the Hudson to set forth a plan to remove the remaining PCB pollution to protect public health, to preserve the river and to ensure it is a vibrant resource for current and future generations.”
“The EPA should not issue a Certificate of Completion for the Hudson River dredging until we have more data that show this remedy actually worked,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The EPA has a responsibility to ensure that the cleanup protects the health of New Yorkers and our environment, and the agency must listen to the serious concerns that have been raised by local communities, the state, and other federal agencies that have a stake in the long-term health of the Hudson River. Clean water is a right, and we must ensure that we are doing everything possible to fully clean up the Hudson River for future generations.”
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a group of manufactured chemicals that were widely used as fire insulators in the manufacturing of electrical devices. GE released PCBs into the Hudson River from two of its plants from 1947 to 1977. In 2002, the EPA designated the Hudson River as a Superfund Site, and in 2006, mandated that GE clean of a 40-mile section of the upper river from Fort Edward to Troy. Dredging of the Hudson River, pursuant to the consent decree between EPA and GE, ended in 2015, but analysis by New York State, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have found that significant amounts of PCBs remain in the river. The latest report by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, based on comprehensive soil and fish sampling, confirms there are PCBs still in the Hudson and that the PCB concentrations have not significantly decreased since the dredging stopped.
The full text of the Senators’ letter to the EPA can be found here and below:
Dear Acting Administrator Wheeler,
As EPA completes its technical review of the results of post-dredging sediment samples and fish tissue data and prepares to release the final second Five-Year Review Report for Hudson River PCBs Superfund Site, we write to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to withhold issuing a certificate of completion of the remedial action to General Electric for the Hudson River PCB cleanup. We are concerned that the goals of the 2002 Record of Decision (ROD) have not been fully met and the cleanup is not sufficiently protective of human health and the environment. While we recognize that a considerable amount of dredging and clean-up of toxic PCB sediment has occurred as part of the consent order (GE has removed approximately 2.75 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment), we believe that the issuance of a certificate of completion under those conditions is premature and could result in continued harm to the health of the Hudson River and its ecosystems. Instead, we urge the EPA to engage with GE and New York State to continue the PCB clean-up process.
In December, the State of New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released a study based on comprehensive sampling and analysis to assess the extent of PCB contamination remaining in the Hudson River following the end of dredging activities. The DEC report found that PCB contaminated sediments remain in the upper Hudson River. Additionally, fish PCB concentrations are not recovering at the rate anticipated by the EPA. The average concentrations in the upper Hudson have not consistently improved from prior to when the cleanup began and conditions in the lower Hudson have not improved as a result of the remedial work.
These outcomes are not acceptable, and additional work must be done to continue to monitor the effectiveness of the remedy in the upper Hudson and fully investigate contamination in the lower Hudson. Until we have better clarity that the remedy is working as intended and meeting the goals of the ROD, GE should not be released from its obligations as the responsible party and the certificate of completion should not be issued. We believe that more must be done to fully clean up the Hudson River, and we urge you to work with GE and New York state to achieve that goal.
Thank you for your attention to this matter, and please do not hesitate to follow-up with our offices to discuss in further detail.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
United States Senator