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For Release: Wednesday, August 30, 2017

DEC Finalizing Hudson River PCB Sampling Effort to Evaluate Effectiveness of Federal Dredging Cleanup

State Sampled More Than 1,600 Locations Believed to Still Contain High Levels of PCBs and Rejects EPA Five-Year Review that Found Hudson River Dredging Remedy Will be Protective

EPA Allows Unacceptable Levels of PCBs to Remain in River

PCBs Pose Continuing Threat to Public Health and Environment


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the state is nearing completion of their independent investigation of Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) contamination in the Hudson River.

At Governor Andrew Cuomo's direction, DEC launched a sampling effort this summer to fully assess the nature and extent of contamination left behind after six years of dredging to remove PCBs was completed with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversight. The State also submitted comments rejecting the EPA's conclusion that the dredging sufficiently remediated the Hudson River to a level protective of public health and the environment.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "A remedy that fails to meet its goals for 55 years is not protective. EPA has a legal and moral obligation to complete the work they started and meet the goals the agency set when the dredging remedy was selected. Anything less is unacceptable. As I promised one year ago, in the absence of leadership and responsible action by the EPA, Governor Cuomo and New York are stepping up to protect public health and the Hudson River environment."‎

In June, EPA's proposed Five-Year Review Report found that its selected PCB cleanup remedy was not yet "protective" of public health and the environment but that it will be protective in over fifty years from now. DEC rejects EPA's finding based on its own research and analysis of existing information that reveal unacceptable levels of PCBs remain in the river sediments and fish tissues. DEC today submitted detailed comments to EPA challenging the conclusions reached in the Five-Year Review Report.

DEC's sampling effort began in June after EPA ignored the state's request to conduct additional sampling to more accurately inform their Five-Year Review. DEC scientists are collecting samples to fully assess the current levels of surface sediment contamination in the upper Hudson River, and this week will finish collecting a total of over 1,600 sediment samples from the river. When finished, the state will analyze these samples, with results from the sampling expected this fall.

The data collected will be used to evaluate recovery rates, and to help identify areas where further action is needed to meet established remedial goals. The EPA collected only 375 samples, or fewer than 10 samples for every mile of river, to inform the Five-Year Review Report. DEC determined that EPA's sampling was inadequate and would not provide enough data to assess the efficacy of the remediation.

DEC and environmental organizations have repeatedly rejected the findings of EPA's Five-Year Review Report on the Hudson River cleanup remedy. With unacceptably high levels of contamination remaining in river sediment, the State called on EPA to declare the remedy "not protective" in accordance with EPA rules, and to thoroughly reexamine its cleanup to effectively protect public health and the environment over the long term.

In addition, EPA's Five-Year Review Report indicates that the remedial work in the upper Hudson will have little or no beneficial impact in the lower Hudson. In a 2016 letter to the EPA, Commissioner Seggos challenged the performance of the remedy to achieve the targeted reductions of PCB levels in water and fish tissue within the timeframes originally anticipated by EPA. DEC then called on EPA to begin a full investigation of the PCB contamination of the lower Hudson. After EPA declined to preform additional fish sampling, DEC requested General Electric to perform the sampling to ensure sufficient numbers of fish are collected to quantify the rate of recovery in the first five years following completion of dredging.

The public comment period on the EPA report ends on September 1, 2017.

DEC is also urging EPA to enforce the remedial goals set when the decision in favor of dredging was made, which called for rapid reductions in fish PCB concentrations with goals to be met as soon as five years after the end of dredging. EPA used these targeted reductions in fish PCB concentrations to justify the need for the dredging remedy, and which originally led the State to concur that the remedy would be protective of public health and the environment.

"I strongly urge the EPA to order GE to continue its Hudson River cleanup operation," said Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake). "The dumping of toxic waste into a waterway vital to the many communities through and near which it runs has already significantly impacted our river wildlife, economy, and recreation and tourism industries. The EPA must hold GE accountable for these damages, and that starts with mandating a good faith effort to return the river to its original condition."

Gardiner Congdon, Town of Moreau Supervisor said, "I commend Commissioner Seggos and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for recognizing the problems left in the Hudson River and taking these important actions to conduct additional sampling and continuing to press for more action from EPA."

Ned Sullivan, President of Scenic Hudson, said, "Scenic Hudson commends Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Seggos for their leadership in achieving a healthy Hudson and restored Champlain Canal that can be the foundation for economic revitalization. Over 500 people and business leaders attended the public meetings held by EPA on its draft Five Year Review, and more than 1,000 have filed comments calling for additional cleanup of the Hudson so that the full potential of the river can be realized. We are hopeful EPA's final report will acknowledge the true state of the river and lay the groundwork for its restoration as the foundation of the region's health, economy and quality of life."

Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said, "We applaud the New York State DEC for taking a strong and forthright stance on the Hudson River PCB cleanup, as reflected in its just-released comments to EPA. We also thank the DEC for its efforts to pinpoint the location of PCB contamination that was left behind in the Hudson at twice the levels anticipated, after dredging operations were discontinued in 2015. Riverkeeper has been fighting this battle for more than four decades and we will submit comments soon, calling for EPA to order General Electric to complete its PCB cleanup and repair the damage they did to the Hudson. We urge the public to demand the same, and to send their own comments to EPA by visiting riverkeeper.org/pcbs."

Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the National Contingency Plan (NCP), EPA is required to monitor effectiveness of the remedy to affirm that it is meeting the goals set by the Record of Decision (ROD).

EPA must take additional remedial action if the remedy fails to meet the goals required by the ROD, including the reduction of PCB levels in fish within the timeframe EPA originally anticipated.

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