EPA Gives GE Certificate of Completion Despite Ongoing PCB Risk

NEW YORK – New York plans to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for giving General Electric a Certificate of Completion for its cleanup of PCBs in the upper Hudson River.

The EPA said the $1.7 billion cleanup of PCBs, a suspected human carcinogen, satisfies the 2002 agreement with General Electric, which dumped the chemicals in the river. But according to Arin Doran, senior attorney with the environmental group Riverkeeper, studies indicate that unremediated “hotspots” in the upper Hudson continue to pose a health risk to humans and wildlife, and areas that had been cleaned up have been re-contaminated.

“The cleanup to date isn’t working as intended, which is something that the EPA also recognized in reaching a ‘protectedness deferred’ determination on the five-year review,” Doran said. “So, at this point, it would be inappropriate, in our view, to issue the certificate of completion.”

She said issuing the certificate now could severely limit the EPA’s ability to force GE to do additional cleanup.

Doran noted fish in the lower Hudson still are contaminated by PCBs and the EPA is considering ordering GE to investigate a cleanup of the lower 150 miles of the river.

“What they really need to do is set a deadline for making a decision on getting GE to look at the lower Hudson River and perform a full remedial investigation to figure out how to best clean up that portion of the superfund site,” she said.

GE dredged contaminated sediment from about 40 miles of the river between Fort Edward and Troy, removing less that 75 percent of what is now known to be in the river.

The Department of Environmental Conservation confirms many areas of the river remain contaminated at levels far beyond what was expected after dredging. And Doran said without further cleanup efforts, the Hudson will remain contaminated for decades.

“It’s going to take a long time for the river to clean itself,” she said. “And it’s something that really shouldn’t be left to the river to do when GE made the mess.”

Environmentalists hope the lawsuit announced last week will make the EPA reconsider its findings and order GE to do additional cleanup. More information is available at Riverkeeper.org.

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