Too Soon for Hudson River Dredging to be Deemed Complete, Dutchess Exec Molinaro Says

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Posted November 28, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should not issue a certificate of completion for the Hudson River PCB dredging project until it reaches the explicit goals set forth in the agency's decision documents, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro says.

"I am writing with deep hope and strong concerns regarding the imminent choices your office will make regarding the fate of the Hudson River and its ongoing legacy of PCB pollution," Molinaro wrote in a Nov. 23 letter to EPA Region 2 Administrator Peter Lopez. "Like many of our members, we live, work and play in communities along the Hudson."

Molinaro, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor in the Nov. 6 election, said everyone living along the Hudson River has endured decades of toxic pollution and will continue to suffer from the loss of water-based industries and the health impacts of PCB-contaminated water, fish and air.

General Electric Co. in 2015 completed the removal from the river bottom of 2.75 million cubic yards of sediment contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls. An EPA review last summer found that, based on data available at the time, the cleanup, carried out along 40 miles of the river north of Troy, would protect human health and the environment over the long term and that no more dredging was needed. The agency, though, said it could take 55 years or more before fish from the river are clean enough to eat once a week.

GE dumped PCBs, later determined to be carcinogenic, into the Hudson River from two of its plants from the 1940s until the substance was banned by the federal government in 1977. PCBs were used as coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment.

The cleanup, which took several years, was mandated by the federal government.

Those pushing for a broader cleanup of the river have noted a large amount of PCB-contaminated sediment remains.

In his letter, Molinaro asked the EPA to work with New York state and other stakeholders to address continued PCB contamination in the river, beginning with an acknowledgment in the agency's second Five-Year Review that the Superfund cleanup is "not protective of human health and the environment." He said a certificate of completion should not be issued until the project reaches the explicit public health and environmental goals outlined in the EPA's decision documents.

"Without additional cleanup, this contamination will continue to threaten public health and hamper lasting economic gains that our members are working so hard to achieve," Molinaro wrote.

Richard Webster, legal director for the environmental advocacy organization Riverkeeper, said the nonprofit group believes issuing a certificate of completion for the project would be "premature" because there is more dredging to be done in the upper river.

Also, Webster said, the EPA should conduct an immediate investigation of how to clean up the lower river.

Webster also said the comment period for the Five-Year Review process closed in September 2017 yet a final report has not yet been issued. He said the EPA needs to get the review process finished and find that the cleanup so far has not been protective of the river.

EPA spokeswoman Larisa Romanowski said the agency had not yet made a decision regarding GE's request for a certificate of completion or the Five-Year Review.

"EPA is still intensely engaged with our state partners, including the review of surface sediment data collected in 2017," Romanowski said in an email Monday. "We continue to consider input about our various Hudson decisions and hope to come to some conclusions in [the] coming months. Our overall goal is to have a mutual understanding of the data and develop joint findings and conclusions in the near future."

Romanowski also said the EPA continues to investigate the upper Hudson River and is committed to expanding its work in the lower part of the river.

Source: Daily Freeman