News & Bulletins

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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

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Updated 12/29/97