State DEC's Review of Sediment and Fish Testing Finds Unacceptable Levels of PCBs Remain in River after Dredging
State Renews Call for U.S. EPA Not to Issue Certificate of Completion
Remaining PCB Contamination Poses Continuing Threat to Public Health and Environment, GE Remediation Fails to Meet Cleanup Goals
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today released a study by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation showing General Electric's cleanup of PCB contamination in the upper Hudson River is incomplete and not protective of public health and the environment.
New York State is demanding that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency not issue a Certificate of Completion to GE, which would end its responsibility for cleaning up the Superfund site, as PCB - or polychlorinated biphenyls -- levels in fish are above EPA's own acceptable risk range. DEC is also calling on EPA to direct GE to collect additional data to determine if another round of sediment remediation is needed. In addition, EPA must compel GE to fund a full investigation of the lower Hudson, where PCB concentrations in fish have not recovered. If GE refuses, EPA should fund this necessary work.
"The health of the Hudson River estuary and the vitality of the communities along its banks are at stake and the EPA must not let GE off the hook for a job that is not done," Governor Cuomo said. "The latest sampling data confirms the overwhelming body of evidence that PCB levels remain unacceptably high in both the riverbed and in fish. If the EPA issues the Certificate of Completion for this cleanup, New York will take any action necessary to hold them accountable and demand they fulfill their obligation to restore our treasured river."
At the Governor's direction, DEC launched a sampling effort in the summer of 2017 to fully assess the nature and extent of contamination left behind after six years of dredging to remove PCBs, which was required by EPA in order to meet the goals of a 2002 Record of Decision (ROD). The last study included both surface sediment and fish samples. The State also submitted comments rejecting the EPA's Five-Year Review and its conclusion that the dredging sufficiently remediated the Hudson River to a level that would be protective of public health and the environment.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "A remedy that fails to meet its goals is not protective. EPA has a legal and moral obligation to complete the work they started and direct GE to meet the cleanup goals set when the dredging remedy was selected. Anything less is unacceptable, and New York is prepared to use all legal options to ensure EPA and GE finish the job and protect public health, the Hudson River environment, and the communities that depend on a clean and healthy river. Under no circumstances should EPA issue a Certificate of Completion to GE."
Congressman Eliot Engel said, "The EPA under the Trump Administration has been a disaster, and this failure to adequately monitor the PCB clean-up in the Hudson is just the latest example of the agency's incompetence. We need to make sure the court ordered remediation of the Hudson River is completed properly, to the benefit of our wonderful shoreline communities like Yonkers and Hastings. I commend Governor Cuomo for acting as a true steward of our environment and I will continue working with him to ensure a full remediation."
Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey said, "The DEC's findings are further proof that the EPA's cleanup efforts have failed to resolve the PCB contamination in the Hudson River. This contamination poses an ongoing threat to communities around the Hudson River. I have called on the EPA to consider this and all available data while completing their second Five-Year Review of the PCB contamination. I will continue fighting to ensure the long-term health of the Hudson River and the safety of our communities in the Hudson Valley."
Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney said, "GE is not done cleaning up the mess they made and the EPA has no business letting them off the hook for it. I want to thank DEC and Governor Cuomo for staying on top of this and joining New York Congressional leaders who have called on the EPA to withhold the certificate of completion until we get a real cleanup. We're not going to accept anything less than remediation to safe levels."
In the absence of federal leadership, DEC conducted a comprehensive analysis to collect hundreds of new sediment samples, confirming that elevated levels of PCBs remain in the surface sediment of the Hudson River. DEC sampled nearly 1,700 locations—in many areas, the average PCB concentrations exceed the 1 part per million cleanup level typically used by DEC for sediment cleanup projects. Overall, the average sediment PCB concentration varied significantly between different reaches of river, indicating there are still certain areas in the upper Hudson where PCB contaminated sediments remain.
DEC also collected nearly 230 fish samples and also evaluated fish data generated by the EPA and GE during and after the dredging project, finding that fish PCB concentrations are not recovering at the rate anticipated by EPA. The average fish PCB concentrations in the upper Hudson in the two years after dredging are essentially the same as concentrations prior to the start of the cleanup. The concentrations documented in the ongoing fish sampling after dredging, 1.2 parts per million, is three times higher than the targeted concentration EPA anticipated reaching five years after dredging, or in 2020. In addition, DEC found that fish PCB concentrations in the lower Hudson have not recovered as a result of the remedial work in the upper Hudson. PCB concentration in the estuary, particularly south of the City of Albany, have remained nearly constant for the last several years and show no rate of improvement.
To determine how much additional sediment cleanup is necessary to achieve the cleanup objectives in the ROD, EPA must direct GE to collect additional data to understand how to successfully meet the goals set in the ROD. EPA must also refine its understanding of the relationship between the remaining PCBs in upper Hudson sediments and the fish PCB concentrations in the upper Hudson to determine where and how much further sediment cleanup should be required of GE.
In addition, DEC is calling on EPA to compel GE to fund a full investigation of the lower Hudson or EPA should fund the work. EPA admits that dredging work in the upper Hudson will have little to no beneficial impact in the lower Hudson. In its Five-Year Review, EPA stated that human and environmental risks from PCBs in the lower Hudson remain unacceptable and are not expected by EPA to improve because of the work in the upper Hudson.
DEC and environmental organizations have repeatedly rejected the findings of EPA's Five-Year Review Report on the Hudson River cleanup remedy. Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the National Contingency Plan, EPA is required to monitor effectiveness of the remedy to affirm that it is meeting the goals set by the ROD.
EPA must take additional remedial action if the remedy fails to meet the goals required by the ROD.