ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency got started on something it has done every five years. EPA staff began its next five-year review on the Hudson River PCB Superfund site, which stretches from New York City all the way north, as far as the Washington County town of Hudson Falls.
This review will be the third in a series required every five years by Superfund law. Every five years, EPA staff perform a thorough check-in on how the river and communities around the river are recovering from a lengthy dredging project to remove PCBs from the river. The project was completed in 2015 by General Electric, under EPA oversight. But the water has kept flowing, and the fish have kept swimming, which means there are continually more data to look at.
“As we continue our work to monitor and assess the upper Hudson, move forward with the Hudson River floodplain investigation and evaluate how best to assess the lower Hudson, EPA is committed to continuing to fully engage our state and federal partners and the site’s Community Advisory Group during the five-year review process,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “It has been EPA’s long-standing experience on this iconic site that engagement from the public has strengthened our work and served well communities up and down the Hudson.”
The new review will be examining data spanning 2017-2021 on fish, water and river sediment samples collected during that time. Each review takes a period of years, resulting in a report. The last one, in 2019, said that it was too soon to determine how effective the cleanup up the Upper Hudson had been, and that more years of information would be required. The third report is set to be completed in 2023.
Another goal of the five-year review is to keep an eye on PCB remnant deposits at certain points along the river. When the former Fort Edward Dam was shut down in 1973, those deposits were exposed. They were capped as part of a PCB cleanup plan in the 1980s.
The history of PCBs in the Hudson River dates back to the 1940s. From then until the 1970s, General Electric plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward emitted PCB particles into the Hudson River. PCBs were used at the time as an insulator and fire preventative substance that was used in a variety of electric devices, like transformers and capacitor units.
The EPA called for the dredging of 2.65 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment, a process that ran from 2009 to 2015. The dredging ran 40 miles, from Fort Edward as far south as Troy. The EPA estimates roughly 1.3 million pounds of PCB particles dumped into the water over three decades.
“The comprehensive dredging project GE completed in the Upper Hudson in 2016 removed the vast majority of PCBs. Since then, as part of our continuing cooperation with EPA, GE has collected voluminous data on water, sediment and fish to help the regulatory agencies assess the results of the cleanup. We are proud of our contribution to a cleaner Hudson and will continue to work with EPA, New York State and local communities on other Hudson-related projects, including the study of environmental conditions in the floodplains and the cleanup of our plant sites,” said a spokesman from General Electric on Wednesday.
Prior to its completion, the EPA report will be made open for public comment in fall 2022. A presentation will also be held for the site’s Community Advisory Group, which will be open to the public, and announced in advance.