NY Challenges EPA Hudson River Cleanup Plan

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In a letter sent Monday, August 22, 2016 to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos challenged the effectiveness of EPA’s remedy to cleanup PCBs from the Upper Hudson River.

With unacceptably high levels of contamination still left in river sediment, New York’s environmental agency called on EPA to reexamine its cleanup to effectively protect public health and the environment over the long term.

“Unacceptably high levels of PCB contaminated sediment remain in large portions of the Upper Hudson River,” said Commissioner Seggos. “The job is not done and the remedy as implemented may not achieve the targeted reductions of PCB levels in water and fish tissue within the timeframes originally anticipated by EPA. EPA must ensure the remediation conducted by General Electric is effectively protecting public health and the environment from exposure to PCBs.”

Specifically, DEC is urging EPA to evaluate the sufficiency of the remediation selected in the Record of Decision (ROD) guiding this cleanup. EPA’s current five-year review must thoroughly quantify the trends based on all available fish, water, and sediment data, and make reasonable and conservative assumptions regarding future trends.

Recent analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others illustrate that recovery rates for fish in the lower Hudson may be far longer than EPA anticipated. With the significant amount of contamination left behind, it is likely the state can no longer concur that the remedy is effective.

New York’s challenge of EPA cleanup efforts has drawn support from a number of organizations including Hudson Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council.

Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the National Contingency Plan (NCP), EPA is required to monitor effectiveness of the remedy to affirm that it is meeting the goals set by the Record of Decision (ROD).

In March, EPA committed to perform a five-year review of the remedy, which it expects to issue in the spring of 2017. EPA must take additional remedial action if the remedy fails to meet the goals required by the ROD, including the reduction of PCB levels in fish within the timeframe EPA originally anticipated.

source: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation