Apr 16, 2024


With the Hudson River PCBs Superfund Site Five-Year Review Approaching, Congressional Leaders Urge EPA to Rule that Additional Cleanup is Needed

  • General Electric discharged more than a million pounds of toxic PCBs into the Hudson River over 3+ decades

  • Five-Year Reviews are issued by EPA to examine remediation efforts at EPA Superfund Sites to ensure cleanup is progressing; since large amounts of PCBs are still in Hudson, members of Congress are demanding further remediation

  • Letter to EPA includes signatures by 20 members of New York and New Jersey Congressional Delegations

WASHINGTON, DC  –  Today, congressional leaders wrote to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, urging the EPA to follow the science and rule that further PCB clean-up in the Hudson River is needed in the upcoming Five-Year Review (FYR) report. An FYR report is issued by the EPA every five years to examine remediation efforts at EPA Superfund Sites, and to ensure that prescribed remedial actions are protective of human health and the environment. 

For 30 years, General Electric (GE) discharged millions of pounds of toxic PCBs into the Hudson River from two GE manufacturing plants. Since PCBs bioaccumulate, they increase in concentration as they move up the food chain. PCBs are considered probable human carcinogens and are harmful to fish and wildlife. Congressmen Pat Ryan and Marc Molinaro, who led the letter to Administrator Regan, were joined in the call by 18 members of the New York and New Jersey Congressional Delegation. This follows on the heels of a bipartisan letter from New York State legislators released last month that included more than two dozen Assemblymembers and 17 Senators.

Data analyzed by Friends of a Clean Hudson indicates that the prescribed cleanup remedy is not meeting, and is not expected to meet, target PCB concentrations in the river. The letter specifically calls for the EPA to issue a “not protective” determination in the upcoming FYR, which would compel the EPA to take further action to reduce exposure and risk at the site.

“For decades, General Electric discharged toxic PCBs into our precious River, putting their profit ahead of the health and safety of Hudson Valley families, including the more than 100,000 people who rely on the river for drinking water. We can’t let GE off the hook –  clean-up must continue until these toxins are completely removed from the Hudson,” said Congressman Ryan. “Congressman Molinaro and I have fought this battle together for years. For your kids and ours, we will keep fighting until the clean-up is done.”

“Corporations dumped toxins into the river, then left us to deal with the environmental and economic aftermath. On behalf of communities in the Hudson River Valley, Congressman Pat Ryan and I have fought to clean up the Hudson and finish the job once and for all,” said Congressman Molinaro. “Prior to coming to Congress I was proud to lead efforts to press for a total clean up. Today, we are both again calling on the EPA to take all action necessary to protect drinking water, our environment, and ecosystems.”

“Members of Congress representing nearly 14 million people across New York and New Jersey recognize that the dredging of the Upper Hudson River has fallen far short of meeting EPA’s cleanup goals for the Hudson River PCBs Superfund Site,” said Tracy Brown, President of Riverkeeper. “We continue to urge the EPA to acknowledge in its upcoming review that the cleanup has not succeeded in protecting human health and the environment, and to demand that the agency take necessary and active steps to put the river on a real path to recovery. With PCBs still coursing through the Hudson River ecosystem, the EPA must listen to members of Congress and the stark reality that without additional action, the river’s toxic burden will endure, harming the health and well-being of generations to come.”

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said: “As we await the third Five-Year Review of the dredging remedy, the scientific data remains crystal clear. EPA has failed to meet the targets it set for itself, and it has failed to protect the people, wildlife and environment from toxic PCB contamination along the 200-mile Hudson River Superfund site. Disadvantaged communities, who often rely on Hudson River fish for subsistence, continue to bear the heaviest burden. EPA must now follow the science, adhere to its own environmental justice policies, and declare that the dredging remedy is not protective of human health and the environment.” 

“Superfund Law empowers EPA to remediate some of the most contaminated sites in the United States with clear goals of reducing risk to human health and the environment. Here on the Hudson River, the data is clear – the dredging remedy for General Electric’s PCB contamination of the Hudson River has failed to meet the goals for the cleanup,” said David Toman, Executive Director of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. “The burden of General Electric’s toxic legacy in the Hudson River must not continue to fall on communities and the environment – we stand with Congressman Ryan in urging EPA to acknowledge these realities by issuing a ‘not protective’ determination.”

The bi-partisan letter, created by Representative Pat Ryan (NY-18) and Marc Molinaro (NY-19), has been signed by 18 other Representatives throughout the State of New York and New Jersey. They include Representatives Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Yvette Clarke (NY-9), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Daniel Goldman (NY-10), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Michael Lawler (NY-17), Grace Meng (NY-6), Jerrold Nadler (NY-12), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Paul Tonko (NY- 20), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Nydia Velazquez (NY-7), Tom Suozzi (NY-3), Bill Pascrell (NJ-9), Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11), Brandon Williams (NY- 22), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), and Bob Menendez (NJ-8)

A copy of Congressmen Ryan and Molinaro’s original letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan appears below:

Dear Administrator Regan,

As members of the U.S. House of Representatives, we strongly urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a “not protective determination” in the third five-year review (FYR) for the Hudson River Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) Superfund Site. We also urge the EPA to acknowledge the Upper Hudson River dredging remedy did not succeed in meeting the goals and rapid-reduction objectives of the 2002 Record of Decision, and that additional remedial action is warranted. PCB toxicity in the Hudson River is a compounding issue; these chemicals resist degradation, biomagnify in food chains, and bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue. Without additional actions, the health risks and impacts to our constituents that live and recreate near this heavily polluted Superfund site will continue. EPA has an obligation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to ensure that the environmental health of the Hudson River is restored.

For 30 years, from 1947-1977, General Electric discharged PCBs into the Hudson River from two capacitor manufacturing plants located in the towns of Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, New York. PCBs are “forever chemicals,” man-made, bioaccumulative, persistent organic pollutants known to contribute to increased risks of cancer, diabetes, liver toxicity, skin ailments, and immune, neurological, and respiratory issues. PCBs dumped by General Electric are present at unacceptably high levels across the Hudson River ecosystem in nearby soil and sediment; in the living tissue of wildlife (from microorganisms to larger animals such as birds and fish) and periodically, suspended in the river’s water column or in the air posing a threat to everyone and everything that breathes.

Evidence shows that far more PCBs remain in the river’s sediment post-dredging than was originally estimated. Unfortunately, despite calls from local elected officials and environmental advocates, EPA issued a Certificate of Completion of the Remedial Action to General Electric in 2019 upon the conclusion of General Electric’s dredging operations. The public health and ecosystem risks are beyond EPA’s acceptable risk ranges and, based on current trends in fish and sediment PCB levels, it is clear that the Hudson River Superfund Site will not be in the acceptable range for an unreasonably long time, potentially the end of this century. The persistence of PCBs also means that the river is not a safe source of food. EPA’s reliance on fish consumption advisories to protect people from the risks of eating contaminated fish is not an adequate nor a just intervention for addressing human health risks.

The health and beauty of the Hudson River is critical to the economic vitality of the communities surrounding it, as well as the state and the country at large. We join New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, leading environmental organizations, Hudson River advocates, local elected officials, and residents across New York and New Jersey in calling on EPA to follow the science and issue a “not protective determination” in the draft third FYR. We also call on the EPA to recognize that the dredging remedy has not been as effective as originally promised to our constituents and start the process of addressing new remedial actions to protect the environment and our vulnerable populations along the Hudson River, who without further actions by EPA will continue to be exposed to harmful levels of PCB toxins.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent and important matter.

About Friends of a Clean Hudson:
The Friends of a Clean Hudson (FOCH) is a coalition of national, state, and regional organizations fighting for the restoration of the Hudson River through the aggressive removal of PCB-contaminated sediments that includes Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, Inc., and Hudson
River Sloop Clearwater with Appalachian Mountain Club, Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Corporation, Coast Alliance, Environmental Advocates, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York Public Interest Research Group, New York Rivers United, and Sierra Club.

Media contact:
Riverkeeper: Lewis Kendall
914-478-4501 ext. 238
Clearwater: Amber Stewart
845-265-8080 ext. 7108
Scenic Hudson: Riley Johndonnell
845-473-4440 ext. 222