PCB’s in Hudson, Higher Than First Thought

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Hudson river

Levels of PCB contamination in the Hudson River are far greater than first estimated and General Electric’s dredging operation must improve before the next phase of the toxic cleanup starts in 2011.

Note: PCBs, or Polychlorinated biphenyls, are a group of toxic, persistent chemicals produced by chlorination of biphenyl that once were used in high-voltage electrical transformers

In a 272 page document, the Environmental Protection Agency analyzed GE’s work nearly 200 miles north of the Tappan Zee Bridge, to clean up decades-old contamination from the polychlorinated biphenyls.

GE, who is responsible for the pollution, also analyzed the first year’s operation and has released its own 247 page report.

The two sides will now wait for a seven-member panel of dredging experts to review the work and recommend changes for the bigger, five year Phase 2 of the project. The entire project estimated price tag is about $700 million.

“What people should take away from the whole thing is there is room for improvement” EPA spokeswoman Kristen Skopeck said Tuesday, after the report was made available on the agency’s website.

Mark Behan, a spokesman for GE, said the company wants to put a cap on the amount of PCBs dug up to lower the odds that they will find their way into fish and the rest of the ecosystem.

“The EPA’s goal was to reduce PCB levels in fish and in the Hudson,” Behan said. “What we found in Phase 1 is a clear relationship between dredging and resuspension. We can now design a smarter, more efficient project and get it done in five years.”

Federal regulators want a project that leaves no more than 1 percent residue of the 1.3 million pounds of PCB’s that went into the river, most of which is concentrated in the Upper Hudson River near the plants.

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A writer and photographer, Spowart has publication credits in Canada, United States, Europe and Norway with such publications as The Globe & Mail, The National Post, Sun Media, Canwest News, and Canada News Wire.