Fact Sheet 8|
Hudson River PCB Pollution Timeline
1865 First PCB-like chemical discovered; a by product of coal tar. 1929 Monsanto Company begins making PCBs. 1936 First study revealing major health and safety problems associated with PCBs. 1947 General Electric starts using PCBs in the manufacture of electrical capacitors at its Ft. Edward plant on the eastern shore of the Hudson River. 1952 GE starts using PCBs in the manufacture of electrical capacitors at its plant in the Village of Hudson Falls. 1968 PCB poisoning in Japan leads to awareness of toxic effects of PCBs. 1973 Ft. Edward Dam removed from upper Hudson River, causing large amounts of PCBs to flow into the lower Hudson. 1974 US FDA sets safety threshold at 5 parts per million PCBs in fish for human consumption. 1974 An EPA study shows high levels of PCBs in Hudson River fish. 1976 Congress passes the Toxic Substance Control Act banning the manufacture of PCBs and prohibiting all uses except in totally enclosed systems. 2/25/76 DEC makes it illegal to fish in the upper Hudson from the Ft. Edward Dam to the federal dam at Albany, closes Hudson River commercial fisheries, and warns people about the dangers of eating Hudson River fish. 2/76 Administrative Hearing finds that the PCB pollution was GE's fault. 4/76 The worst flood in 100 years causes large amounts of polluted sediments to flow down river. 9/8/76 GE stops dumping PCBs into the Hudson River from its Hudson Falls and Ft. Edward plants. GE agrees to spend $1 million on PCB research and $3 million to monitor the PCBs in the river, and in return will not be blamed for the PCB pollution by the state. 1977 Monsanto stops all production of PCBs. 5/27/77 EPA makes it illegal to discharge any PCBs into navigable waters under the Clean Water Act. 9/8/83 EPA releases updated Superfund National Priority List, which includes the upper Hudson River. 1984 EPA studies PCB problem; issues a Record of Decision (ROD) calling for NO ACTION. 8/20/84 US FDA revises safety threshold to 2 parts per million for human consumption in wake of new risk data. 5/1/85 DEC closes commercial striped bass fisheries in New York Harbor and waters off western Long Island, and starts a tagging program for eastern Long Island striped bass fishery. 3/87 DEC reopens recreational striped bass fishery in Hudson River and Long Island waters. Health advisories against eating striped bass and other species remain in effect. 7/87 DEC designates GE's Hudson Falls Plant as a State Superfund site. 2/21/89 DEC requires GE to conduct further investigations of contamination and a study to evaluate possible on-site and off-site cleanup alternatives. 8/25/89 DEC asks the EPA to reconsider their 1984 federal Superfund "No Action" decision. The level of PCBs in fish were still unsafe and new studies proved that dredging the river sediment would be a good solution. 12/15/89 DEC releases Hudson River PCB Action Plan calling for dredging of 250,000 pounds of PCBs from the Hudson. 9/5/90 DEC reopens limited commercial striped bass fishery on the east end of Long Island. 9/91 Water test in the Upper Hudson shows unusually high levels of PCBs (4,539 parts per trillion). 8/92 Again water tests show high amounts of PCBs. A test of sediment near an old discharge pipe from the Hudson Falls plant also shows high levels of PCBs. DEC starts investigations to find the source. 2/19/93 DEC releases 1992 fish sampling data showing that PCB levels in Upper Hudson fish increased 300% between 1991 and 1992. The drastic increases are linked to the high levels of PCBs seen in the water column in September of 1991. 5/28/93 GE says that PCBs have probably been leaking from the ground at its Hudson Falls plant since at least the early 1980's. In 1991 a sudden increase in water flow through the abandoned Allen Mill structure between the GE plant site and the river is blamed for the high PCB levels. It is believed that PCB contaminated groundwater which had been seeping out of the rock face into the old mill for years is now being washed directly into the river. 6/1/93 Seven GE capacitors filled with PCBs are found in the Hudson River next to the Hudson Falls plant. The capacitors are removed from the river. 7/15/93 DEC tells GE to find ways to clean up the land around and under the plants, but GE still does not have to clean up the river. 7/16/93 DEC tests an "oily liquid" found seeping into the Allen Mills structure. It proves to be 72% pure PCBs. 10/14/93 DEC holds public meeting regarding Hudson Falls site, identifies the following areas of contamination: - ground water; trace levels to 90% PCBs - sediment in Allens Mill raceways; 2,000 to 50,000 parts per million - sediment in Hudson River adjacent to plant; 20,000 ppm 10/14/93 DEC and GE agree to begin cleanup on the Hudson Falls and Ft. Edward sites. 1995 Clean up continues at Hudson Falls and Ft. Edward. DEC reopens fishing in the upper Hudson River as a catch and release program. 1996 Scientists discover that PCBs evaporate from the Hudson River water and tide-exposed sediment. Blood tests of Hudson Valley residents reveal elevated levels of PCBs in non-fish eaters. 10/96 EPA informs environmentalists that its PCB health risk assessment will not include investigation of the inhalation pathway, will not include endocrine disruption effects of PCBs, and will not include risks to women and children. 4/97 US Fish & Wildlife Services releases study showing tree swallows breeding near Hudson Falls have high concentrations of PCBs in their body and eggs. Levels up to 55 ppm were documented, qualifying them as hazardous waste. 7/29/97 Governor Pataki announces that New York State will join the federal government in establishing a Hudson River Natural Resource Trustee Council. This is the first step in the process of determining whether or not a Natural Resources Damages claim should be filed. 9/16/97 Body of a 16 week old bald eagle is found along the Hudson River with 71 ppm of PCBs in its body fat. 9/25/97 Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt holds a press conference along the Hudson demanding that GE stop trying to delay the clean up of PCB contaminated sediment. He also stated that the Superfund program should not be altered or weakened and efforts to do so by large companies need to stop. 10/24/97 Report is released determining at a Natural Resources Damages Claim is warranted and should be pursued. 9/00 EPA's PCB Reassessment enters Phase 3. EPA to release the Feasibility Study Scope of Work, a document that outlines the process of producing the Feasibility Study. 12/00 EPA to release the Feasibility Study Report and Proposed Plan, in which a remediation plan will be proposed. This plan is not a binding order, and is still subject to public comment. 6/01 EPA to release the Record of Decision (ROD), including a Responsiveness Summary which describes the public input received, and outlines EPA's response to the input. The ROD is a legally-binding order to remediate. If General Electric elects to challenge the ROD, EPA may begin cleanup itself, with public money, and GE risks being liable for paying three times the incurred cleanup costs if it loses on appeal.
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