EPA hears calls for more PCB cleanup at public hearing

July 19, 2017 11:12 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The Environmental Protection Agency says the cleanup of PCBs in the Hudson River is on its way to protecting human health and the environment. A group of concerned citizens, environmental advocates, lawmakers, and the state DEC voiced their opposition to that conclusion at a public hearing on Wednesday.  

The EPA's latest projection is some people will be able to safely eat fish caught in the Hudson River regularly in 55 years.  That was not soon enough for Stuyvesant resident Lee Jamison.

"55 years, even five years is unacceptable. We've been fighting to clean up the river for 50 years," said Jamison.

Since General Electric finished up dredging the Hudson River in 2015, the EPA has been working on analyzing the cleanup. The public hearing at the Hilton comes at the EPA's conclusion of a 1,000 page five-year report on the cleanup.  

The EPA says General Electric dumped its first load of PCBs into the river from it's two plants in Washington County in 1947.

GE removed 310,000 pounds of PCBs from the river. It was twice what the EPA expected to find. That is one of the reasons the environmental group Riverkeeper says the EPA needs to change the cleanup plan accordingly.

"First, the levels of PCBs in the surface sediments are much higher than EPA expected. Second of all, the PCB levels in fish are much higher than EPA expected. What that means is even if the decay rates that EPA predicts occur the cleanup will still be decades late on its target," said Richard Webster, Riverkeeper Legal Program Director.

The state DEC, along with more than 40 state lawmakers also disagree with the EPA's approach.

"They are saying 50 years, their sister agencies using the same data doing a different analysis, are saying it's over a century until people can eat fish out of the river more than once a week, it's not acceptable," said Assem. Assem. Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake.

The EPA says more dredging wouldn't significantly speed up the timeline before Hudson River fish are edible again.

There could be a third public hearing. The first was held in Poughkeepsie. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are demanding one at the end of the pollution's path, in New York City. The public comment period lasts until September 1.

Find additional information from the EPA here.


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