EPA: General Electric Co. to Study Lower Hudson River Contamination

EPA: General Electric Co. to Study Lower Hudson River Contamination
Based on its agreement with the U.S. EPA, General Electric will investigate possible contamination of a 200-mile stretch of the Lower Hudson River.

ALBANY—Under a legal agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Sept. 13, General Electric Co. has agreed to investigate the Lower River portion of the Hudson River PCBs Superfund site to determine next steps for addressing contamination.

Under the terms of the legal administrative agreement, GE will immediately develop a plan for extensive water, sediment, and fish sampling involving a 200-mile stretch of the Hudson River between the Troy Dam and the mouth of the New York Harbor. While polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) will be a focus of the data collection in the Lower Hudson River, other contaminants will be evaluated as well. The new data is needed to determine from a scientific standpoint the best path forward, even in advance of a potential formal set of studies that would be required to develop a plan or plans for cleanup, EPA officials stated. The agreement requires data collection to begin in early 2023. GE will also pay EPA’s costs to oversee the work.

“The sampling that GE is conducting will allow us to better understand and evaluate the conditions and potential contamination in the Lower Hudson River environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “The information will help us determine whether and how to prioritize investigations in each portion of the Lower Hudson and how to best address contamination.”

EPA plans to keep the Community Advisory Group for the Hudson River PCBs Superfund site and the public informed and involved as data is collected and follow-up decisions are made. EPA will also look to engage with communities along the lower Hudson, including communities that have environmental justice concerns.

Under the terms of the administrative agreement, GE will sample multiple fish species, sediment and water from various locations throughout the Lower Hudson River. There will be three different sediment sampling programs, each from a different range of depths of the river bottom. Collecting sediment at various depths and locations allows EPA to better understand where contamination is present and has deposited over time. GE will implement two of the three sediment programs in 2023. The third program, which includes the collection of deeper sediment samples, will occur in 2024.

Results of the sampling will inform EPA’s investigations moving forward. GE remains legally responsible for its PCBs that migrated to this area. EPA is continuing to evaluate whether other parties may also be liable for PCBs, as well as other contamination in the Lower Hudson.

The new data will supplement information collected during EPA’s investigation of the Lower Hudson River in the 1990s and the periodic monitoring of Lower Hudson River fish and water by GE under EPA oversight since 2004. EPA has also been gathering additional information and data about the Lower River in coordination with New York State and other project stakeholders since 2019 to support these efforts. GE is reimbursing EPA for the costs incurred for planning the work.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “New York State is committed to a comprehensive cleanup and restoration of the Hudson River. EPA’s agreement directing GE to undertake additional sampling in the lower Hudson is a critical step to address historic PCB contamination. This new data will supplement the extensive sampling efforts previously conducted by DEC, EPA, and GE to evaluate the health of one of New York’s most important waterbodies. New York State DEC looks forward to continuing to work with EPA to understand what further actions can be taken to address unacceptable levels of contamination that remain in the river.”

The Hudson River PCBs Superfund site includes the 200-mile stretch from Hudson Falls to the southern tip of Manhattan in New York City. EPA’s 2002 Record of Decision addressed the sediment in the 40-mile stretch of the Upper Hudson River between Fort Edward and Troy, New York. The dredging and capping work in the Upper Hudson River was conducted between 2009 and 2015.

EPA continues to monitor the post-dredging recovery of the Upper Hudson River and is evaluating PCB contamination in the Upper Hudson River floodplain. The investigation of the floodplain is being done under a separate legal agreement with GE under EPA oversight.

Between the 1940s and 1970s, GE discharged PCBs into the Hudson River from its two former capacitor manufacturing plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls. These PCBs contaminated the river and its sediment from the Hudson Falls plant to New York Harbor, and contaminated certain areas of the floodplain along the banks of the river during high water and flood events.

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