The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has initiated its second review of the cleanup of the Hudson River PCBs Superfund site. The purpose of this review, which is called a five year review and is legally required under the Superfund law every five years after the start of on-site construction, is to ensure that the cleanup is working as intended and will be protective of public health and the environment.
The first five-year review for the Hudson River PCBs Superfund Site was completed in 2012 and the EPA anticipates conducting reviews every five years well into the future. The EPA will conduct its current review in an open and transparent manner with input from the public.
After six seasons of in-river work, dredging to remove polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from a 40-mile stretch of the upper Hudson River between Fort Edward and Troy, New York, was completed in the fall of 2015. The cleanup was conducted and paid for by General Electric Company with EPA oversight under a legal agreement with the EPA.
The current five year review will include new data to be collected this spring and summer, including fish, water and sediment data. EPA will also use all available data for the project, including fish, water and sediment data collected since the last five-year review.
This five-year review will be one of a series of future reviews. It will evaluate whether the stated goals of the project are being met, or are expected to be met, based on the available data. Several more years’ worth of post-dredging data will be needed to understand the reduction of PCB levels in fish as a result of the project.
The five-year review will also include a review of the cleanup plan for the areas of PCB-contaminated sediment upstream of the areas targeted for dredging. These areas, known as the remnant deposits, became exposed after the river water level dropped following removal of the Fort Edward Dam in 1973. These areas are now capped, maintained, and monitored.
As part of the EPA’s commitment to conduct the five-year review in a transparent manner, in 2016 the EPA will hold public workshops with the Hudson River PCBs Site Community Advisory Group to discuss the second five-year review. The Hudson River Community Advisory Group meetings are open to the public and information about the workshops will be announced in advance. Following an evaluation of data and discussions with the federal Hudson River Natural Resources Trustees, New York State and the Community Advisory Group, the EPA expects to issue the second five-year review report in late 2016 or early 2017 and will make it available for public comment. The second five-year review will be completed by April 23, 2017.
The five-year review report will be available on the EPA’s Hudson River website at www.epa.gov/hudson and in the local repositories established for the site: Edgewater Public Library, 49 Hudson Avenue, Edgewater, NJ 07020; Adriance Memorial Library, 93 Market Street, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601; NY State Library, Cultural Education Center, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12230; Crandall Public Library, 251 Glen Street, Glens Falls, NY 12801; Saratoga County EMC, 50 W. High Street, Ballston Spa, NY 12020; EPA Hudson River Field Office, 187 Wolf Road, Suite 303, Albany, NY 12205; and at the EPA Region 2 Superfund Records Center, 290 Broadway – 18th Floor, New York, NY 10007.
Between 1947 and 1977, an estimated 1.3 million pounds of PCBs were discharged into the river from two General Electric capacitor manufacturing plants located in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, New York. The dredging of the Hudson River was designed to occur in two phases. The first phase of the dredging project was conducted in 2009. The plan for dredging underwent extensive review by the EPA and General Electric Company at the end of the 2009 dredging season. The plan was also reviewed by a panel of independent scientific experts at that time, and various stakeholders participated in that review, including the Hudson River Natural Resources Trustees, the Hudson River Community Advisory Group and members of the public. The second and final phase of dredging began in June 2011 and concluded in fall 2015.
During 2016 restoration of habitat areas disturbed by the dredging will be completed. The 100-acre Fort Edward facility that was constructed to dewater and process the dredged sediment is in the process of being taken apart, after which the site will be restored. Once that process is completed, and the required project reports are prepared and approved by the EPA, the dredging portion of the cleanup will be considered complete. The Operation, Maintenance & Monitoring phase of the project is underway and will continue. During this phase, monitoring is conducted to track the ongoing recovery of the river and the effectiveness of the cleanup over time. As stated above, the EPA will also continue to conduct five-year reviews of the project.