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Frequently Asked Questions about Hudson River Preassessment Screen

What is the Hudson River Preassessment Screen (PAS) about?

Before initiating a natural resource damage assessment, natural resource trustees prepare a rapid review of readily available information describing potential injuries to natural resources. This review, or Preassessment Screen (PAS), is undertaken to ensure that there is a reasonable probability of making a successful claim for damages before any money is expended to plan or conduct an assessment. The Hudson River PAS summarizes information on major contaminants in, and potential injuries to, the River and its environment. On the basis of this information, the natural resource trustees have determined that it is appropriate to undertake a natural resource damage assessment of the Hudson River.

Who are the Natural Resource Trustees for the Hudson River?

The Trustees are the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States Department of the Interior (DOI). In September 1997, the Trustees formed a Trustee Council to coordinate state and Federal natural resource damage studies and planning for the restoration of the River's resources.

Where can I get a copy of the Hudson River PAS?

Copies of the PAS are available on NYSDEC's web page, or by contacting one of the following:

Sean Madden
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Natural Resource Damages Unit (NYSDEC-NRDU)
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4756
Phone: (518) 402-8977
Fax: (518) 402-9027
sean.madden@dec.ny.gov

Tom Brosnan
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Damage Assessment Center (NOAA/DAC)
1305 East-West Highway
SSMC4 Rm 10218
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone: (301) 713-3038 x. 186
Fax: (301) 713-4387
email: tombrosnan@noaa.gov

Kathryn Jahn
US Fish and Wildlife Service
US Department of the Interior
3817 Luker Rd
Cortland, NY 13045
Phone: (607) 753-9334
Fax: (607) 753-9699
email: kathryn_jahn@fws.gov

What will the Trustees be doing next?

The next step in the damage assessment process will be the development of a natural resource damage Assessment Plan (consistent with the U.S. Department of the Interior Natural Resource Damage Assessment regulations at 43 CFR Part 11) for the Hudson River. The Assessment Plan will describe the studies that the Trustees will undertake to assess natural resource injuries and to evaluate and support appropriate restoration options for the Hudson River environment. There is no set time frame for the completion of the Assessment Plan, however, the Trustees anticipate that a minimum of 12 months may be needed. Once the Assessment Plan is complete, the Trustees will perform the assessment.

How can I get involved?

The Trustees will actively solicit public input during the damage assessment and restoration process. Notices on the availability of information and the opportunity for public input will be posted on NYSDEC's Web page and through other media (e.g., New York and NOAA postings). Those who would like to be added to the Hudson River Damage Assessment mailing list should notify the NYSDEC contact listed above.

Once the Assessment Plan is prepared, it will be available for public review for a period of at least 30 days. In addition, significant modifications to the Assessment Plan will also be available for public review for a period of at least 30 days.

How do the Trustees' restoration planning efforts relate to EPA's remedial activities?

Remediation is the term generally used to describe cleanup activities at hazardous waste sites, such as those listed in the EPA National Priorities List. The purpose of remediation is to eliminate, abate, and otherwise address significant risks to human health, welfare or the environment posed by the release or threat of release of hazardous substances to the environment. Restoration is a term used in the context of natural resource damage assessment to describe action taken to restore natural resources adversely affected by the release or threat of release of hazardous substances. Remediation may sufficiently address significant risks to human health, welfare or the environment, but may not accomplish any natural resource restoration. In such cases natural resource restoration activities seek to address the residual harm to the environment that remains following the remedial action.

EPA currently is performing a study of the Hudson River PCBs Superfund site to reassess the Agency's 1984 interim no-action decision for contaminated sediments at the site. The purpose of EPA's study (the Reassessment) is to determine an appropriate course of remedial action to address the polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-contaminated sediments in the Upper Hudson River and their impact on human health and the environment throughout the site. The Hudson River PCBs Superfund site includes approximately 200 miles of the Hudson River between Hudson Falls and the Battery in New York City. For additional information about EPA's Reassessment, see EPA's Hudson River PCBs Reassessment RI/FS web site (www.epa.gov./r02earth/superfun/hudson.htm).

The Trustees' efforts are directed at restoring natural resources that have been adversely affected by PCBs. The Trustees will be coordinating their efforts closely with EPA's ongoing Reassessment. Through coordination the remediation goals of EPA and the restoration goals of the Trustees can be accomplished to the greatest extent practicable through a comprehensive set of actions.

Why is the process of assessing the damage to and cleaning up the Hudson taking so long?

The Hudson River is a large and very complex system, and a detailed assessment of the contamination in the River requires extensive scientific study. EPA's Reassessment, which began in 1990, is being performed in three phases. Phase 1 included the collection of existing data on the Hudson River from a wide variety of sources and placing that data into a single database. Analysis of that data uncovered significant data gaps to be filled by additional data collected in Phase 2 of the Reassessment. Phase 2 (which is currently being performed by EPA) consists of field sampling and analysis, computer modeling and human and ecological risk assessments. Data generated during Phase 2 will fill previously existing data gaps in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the contaminated sediments in the Upper Hudson and the impact of those sediments on the site. Phase 3, in which EPA will evaluate possible remedial alternatives for the site, will be conducted after Phase 2 is complete. EPA presently expects to make a remedial decision for the site in late 1999.

The Trustees elected to initiate the damage assessment process at the Hudson River site following key phases of EPA's Reassessment.

Does release of the PAS mean the Hudson River will be dredged?

No, the PAS does not address remedial or restoration options for the River. The ultimate decision on what remedies and restoration options to implement will depend on the results of EPA's ongoing review of the 1984 interim no-action decision, and on the results of any studies the Trustees undertake as part of their natural resource damage assessment. At this stage, it would be premature for the Trustees to take a position on whether or not dredging of contaminated sediments would achieve the goal of restoring injured natural resources of the Hudson River ecosystem.