So, how’s that dredging going, you ask? Riverkeeper has some answers. The environmental watchdog on Thursday held a conference call with reporters to go over the status of General Electric’s federally mandated clean-up of the Hudson River.
It’s a massive project (the largest Superfund site ever, they say), with GE aiming to dredge more than 2.65 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from the river bed. For 30 years beginning in the 1940s, a pair of GE factories, one in Fort Edwards, the other in Hudson Falls, dumped 1.3 million pounds of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, into the river. The chemical compounds, used in the manufacturing of electrical devices, are considered a carcinogen. Among other things, they contaminated the river’s fish, leading to harsh restrictions–in some cases, total prohibitions–on how many fish taken from the river people should eat.
Back to that question at the top of the post: How’s the dredging going? According to Riverkeeper attorney Abigail Jones, GE is ahead of schedule. The company’s contractors, whose dredging efforts are focused on a 40 mile stretch of the upper Hudson, have found and removed more contaminated soil than they had anticipated, and they’ve done it quicker than they’d planned.
So far, Jones said, GE has removed between 1.8 million and 2 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment. The sludge is brought by barge to a de-watering plant in Fort Edward, where it is dried and packed onto trains bound for Oklahoma. The water is treated and returned to the river.
GE has reported they expect to finish the required dredging within two or three years, Jones said, several years sooner than originally planned. That doesn’t mean Riverkeeper is going to quit monitoring GE anytime soon.
“We’ve been in this fight regarding remediation for well over 10 years now,” Jones said. “Our fight is not quite over.”
Riverkeeper is pushing hard to have GE clean up 136 acres of contaminated sediment that were not part of the original agreement between the company and the government. Jones said her organization has “serious concerns” about the additional 136 acres and wants GE to “Do right by the river.”
If it does, the Hudson will still have long way to go before it’s rid of the legacy of PCBs. Jones said it would be at least a decade before fish from the river can be eaten at pre-contamination levels.