IT’S NICE TO HEAR that Scott Pruitt, commissioner of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, said last week that he’s created and EPA task force to speed cleanup of Superfund toxic waste sites. It wasn’t so nice that the EPA has also decided to suspend further cleanup of the largest Superfund site in the country, the Hudson River.
PCBs are industrial chemicals suspected of causing cancer and linked to other health threats to humans and wildlife. General Electric dumped tons of PCBs into the river from 1947 until the 1970s. After years of delays GE finally began in 2009 to dredge the chemicals from the river bottom north of Albany.
By 2015 the company had removed over 300,000 pounds of PCBs. The EPA now says that’s enough until studies of fish show us whether the danger level has decreased.
But that means another 100,000 pounds or more of PCBs will remain in the sediment at the bottom of the Hudson and on its banks south of Albany. For those not familiar with local geography, the Hudson River forms the eastern boundary of the Columbia County. We live with that time bomb.
It’s understandable that GE doesn’t want to pay for removing more of the mess it made. Maybe the company expects the higher tides of climate change will wash the chemicals out to sea. Don’t count on it.
By declaring the cleanup finished and leaving the remainder of these toxins on our doorstep the EPA is abandoning its responsibility to protect public health.
There’s room for debate over the timing and sites for additional dredging. But discussion must start with the EPA renewing its commitment to dredge and dispose of more PCBs paid for by GE.
The EPA is accepting comments until the end of June on its plan to retreat from more cleanup of Hudson River. Citizens who care about their health, the health of future generations and the health of all species that inhabit the Hudson and its shoreline should contact the EPA now: .