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Environmentalists: GE Isn’t Finished Cleaning Hudson River PCBs Yet

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It’s no secret that energy and transportation giant General Electric (GE) is being held responsible for vast quantities of pollution in the Hudson River (click here for our Phase II cleanup report). Concerns about GE’s environmental impact on the river were raised long before the Environmental Protection Agency mandated that the company start an extensive cleanup in 2009. Now, six years and approximately $2 billion later, the cleanup is slated to be finished early this summer or fall — two years ahead of schedule. However, as the project approaches its conclusion, debate has been sparked over the definition of the word “complete.”


Related: General Electric Begins Phase II of Hudson River Cleanup… But Will It Be Enough?


Environmental leaders behind the Campaign for a Cleaner Hudson held a conference at Beacon’s Long Dock Park on Wednesday, April 15 to speak out against the termination of GE’s cleanup efforts. Though GE has successfully removed 2.5 million cubic yards of toxic sediments, Scenic Hudson — a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the river — argues that millions of pounds of polluted sediment will remain both north and south of the Federal Dam in Troy. Its concern reaches beyond environmental preservation; it believes that funding for preserving the river will be placed on the shoulders of taxpayers.

Scenic Hudson teamed up with a slew of other environmental groups for the conference, including Riverkeeper, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, and the National Resource Defense Council. These organizations are not the only groups involved in this campaign, however. Elected officials from 56 communities along 200 miles across the region have joined the cause, pressuring GE with resolutions demanding cleanup actions be taken beyond 2015.

See below for the full list of communities passing resolutions (left) and Campaign for a Cleaner Hudson’s fact sheet (right):

lower valley municipalities campaign for a cleaner hudson fact sheet

Courtesy of Scenic Hudson; PDFs open in new window

Concern stems from both environmental and economic issues. Town of North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas defends his support of the cause by claiming that “the economy of this region relies on a vibrant Hudson River.” Lucas and other public officials who spoke at the conference — including Rockland County Legislator Harriet Cornell and Town of Bedford Supervisor Chris Burdick — agree that the fishing and tourism industries in the region have suffered due to a stigma surrounding the river since awareness of its contamination began spreading during the late 1960s.

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan expressed urgency in the conference, pressurized by GE’s plans to dismantle its massive dredging facilities upon completion of the EPA cleanup requirements.

GE spokesman Mark Behan has argued that these dismantling plans are justified, seeing as the company is “addressing 100 percent of the PCBs that EPA targeted in the comprehensive dredging project.” According to Riverkeeper president Paul Gallay, however, the river will still contain 136 additional acres of contaminated sediment.

In addition, the dredging is only one of two responsibilities placed on GE regarding the water pollution. Beyond the cleanup itself, the federal Superfund behind the project requires GE to compensate for public injury and loss of services due to the contamination. This requirement is called the National Resources Damages (NRD) assessment, and the Campaign for a Cleaner Hudson is pushing for GE to extend the river cleaning as a way to address a portion of its NRD liability.

“It’s been nearly forty years,” said Gallay at the conference. “Let’s get this cleanup done — all of it.”


Communities and Counties Passing Resolutions for Hudson River PCB Cleanup

COLUMBIA COUNTY
Town of Livingston

DUTCHESS COUNTY
City of Beacon
Town of Rhinebeck
Village of Millerton

ORANGE COUNTY
Orange County Legislature
City of Newburgh
Town of Cornwall
Town of Highlands
Town of New Windsor
Village of Maybrook

PUTNAM COUNTY
Putnam County Legislature
(See also Westchester Putnam Association of Town Supervisors listed under Westchester County)

ROCKLAND COUNTY
Rockland County Legislature
Town of Ramapo
Village of Montebello

ULSTER COUNTY
Ulster County Legislature
Town of Hurley
Town of Lloyd
Town of New Paltz
Town of Olive
Town of Rosendale
Town of Wawarsing
Village of New Paltz
Village of Saugerties

SULLIVAN COUNTY
Town of Mamakating

WESTCHESTER COUNTY
Westchester Putnam Association of Town Supervisors
Town of Bedford
Town of Cortlandt
Town of Greenburgh
Town of Lewisboro
Town of Mamaroneck
Town of North Salem
Town of Somers
Village of Croton-on-Hudson

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