On two fronts, Monday, June 6, was a momentous day in the history of New York’s Hudson Riverand a hopeful one in terms of its future. For starters, it marked the beginning of Phase 2 of General Electric Corp.’s PCB cleanup. This massive undertaking will remove millions of tons of these toxins located in “hotspots” around and downriver from two upstate manufacturing plants where GE had dumped the chemicals for three decades, ending in the mid-70s.
Two years ago I wrote about how GE had commenced Phase 1 of this project, which is being overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The initial phase was basically a test to see if removing the chemicals from the riverbed via dredging was feasible and, more important, would result in a healthier Hudson. An independent panel of scientists that reviewed the results declared that GE’s methods for extracting the PCB-laden silt were successful on both counts, and that Phase 2a full-scale cleanupshould commence as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the data also revealed that the level of PCBs in the river is far greater than expected.
For a quarter century, environmental groups, including Scenic Hudson, have been crusading to compel GE to remove these toxins that made the Hudson America’s most PCB-polluted waterway and our nation’s largest Superfund site. PCBs not only have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease and immune-system disorders in humans, but adversely affect fish, forcing New York State to close or impose severe restrictions on lucrative recreational and commercial fisheries all the way to New York Harbor, 200 miles downriver.