Candlelight Vigil Calls for Full Cleanup of Hudson River PCBs
July 24, 2015
by Andrea Sears
NEW YORK – Candle flames flickered along the shores of the Hudson River on Thursday night as New Yorkers from Manhattan to Schuylerville 200 miles north joined in a vigil calling for a thorough cleanup of toxic PCB contamination.
General Electric, which dumped millions of pounds of industrial chemicals into the water from two manufacturing plants in the 1970s, plans to end its cleanup operations at the end of this summer. However, Abigail Jones, staff attorney at Riverkeeper, said that will leave the Hudson still dangerously polluted.
“The cleanup is just not meeting any of the goals that it’s supposed to do,” she said. “There’s still heavily contaminated fish in the upper and lower Hudson River.”
After a lengthy legal battle, a 2002 agreement between GE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency only requires the company to remove 65 percent of the PCBs from the most heavily polluted parts of the river. The GE plants were located in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls.
If GE stops the cleanup this year, Jones said, it will face further potential lawsuits from both the federal government and New York state, to force it to complete the remediation of the river – and litigation takes time.
“If GE doesn’t step up and voluntarily agree to undertake this additional dredging now,” she said, “it could be a decade or longer before we see any kind of action from them.”
One hundred forty-one members of the state Assembly and about 25 state senators have joined in the call for GE to extend its cleanup operations. PCBs are considered probable carcinogens, and their use in manufacturing was banned in the United States in 1977.
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