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EPA to evaluate DEC's Hudson River samples

EPA to evaluate DEC's Hudson River samples

Study will expand probe into lower river contamination in fish
EPA to evaluate DEC's Hudson River samples
PCB dredging operations on the Hudson River in Mechanicville in June 2015.
Photographer: Daily Gazette file photo

HUDSON RIVER — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expanding its review of the impact of PCB contamination on the Hudson River, federal officials said Monday.

The EPA said it will evaluate about 1,800 Hudson River sediment samples taken last year by New York state and will also launch additional studies of PCBs in fish caught in the lower section of the river.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation's samples will be examined as the EPA considers whether the $1.7 billion dredging project that wrapped up in 2015 has successfully protected the health of the upper Hudson between Hudson Falls and Troy.

"While the EPA, its partners and the public continue to give serious attention to post-dredging recovery of the upper Hudson River, it's imperative that we also expand the scope of the agency's efforts to ensure the Hudson River is fully remediated," EPA Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez said.

With controversy swirling around whether the multiyear effort to remove 2.75 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the river was adequate, DEC took samples on its own in 2017, after state officials said the EPA's sampling regimen was too narrow. The state has said the dredging project failed to protect public health and the river, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has threatened to sue the EPA if it declares the General Electric-funded dredging a success.

On Monday, EPA officials said Lopez reached out to DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos earlier this month, offering federal resources to help evaluate the state's data.

The PCBs — an acronym for polychlorinated biphenyls, a suspected carcinogen — were discharged from GE plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward between 1946 and 1977. While most of the PCBs were in the 40-mile stretch of the upper Hudson, some are believed to have gotten into the lower river. EPA officials said they plan to expand testing of fish from the lower river, including evaluating whether additional sources of PCBs in the lower river are part of the problem.

A separate study, being funded by GE, is looking at whether there is PCB contamination in the floodplains along the river between Hudson Falls and Waterford, and how to address any such contamination.

The Poughkeepsie-based environmental group Riverkeeper called the EPA'a decision "a step in the right direction."

"We hope EPA’s outreach to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation leads to a thorough, diligent and collaborative analysis of the DEC’s data regarding Hudson River PCBs," said Richard Webster, the group's legal program director.

GE issued a statement reiterating its position that it has met at the requirements set out for the cleanup project.

"GE has met or exceeded all of its obligations on the Hudson River, removed twice the volume of PCBs that EPA anticipated, and invested $1.7 billion in what EPA called a 'historic achievement,'" spokesman Mark Behan said in a prepared statement.

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