Anti-dredgers not supported by science, history or
by Ken Dufty
Troy, New York
December 28, 2000
In the mad dash to carry G.E.’s corporate water
on the Hudson River dredging issue, many otherwise well-intentioned folks
are parroting the Company’s claims that removing PCB's from the mighty
river’s bottom will 'devastate' the river community’s economy, and wreak
havoc with the wildlife and public health.
They claim that the magnitude of this project is near earth-shattering,
and also challenge the U.S. E.P.A.’s position that the clean-up can be
accomplished in real time, perhaps five years from the start of construction.
These claims are baseless at best and, worse, belied by history (which
has been lost in the fray). Truth is, dredging in the Hudson up until 1979
was commonplace and a necessary activity on the river to keep the navigational
Indeed, in 1974 the New York State Department of Transportation dredged
250,000 cubic yards of sediment from an area around Rogers Island, near
one of the 'hot spots' targeted recently by the E.P.A.. Those sediments
were entombed near the island and were clearly visible.
During the same time period, another 350,000 cubic yards were dredged
from the east and west channels, and the sediments were taken to the Old
Moreau Landfill, where they lie today.
Three years later, another 14,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments
were dredged from the river and entombed at a Moreau site. During this
remedial action, another 215,000 yards of dredged material was encapsulated
in a dedicated site in Moreau, where vegetation was planted over it and
where it remains today.
So in a few short years, nearly a million yards of contaminated river
bottom were not only moved from in and around the Hudson, but they were
landfilled in unlined sites right in the local community.
Errr...did I miss something…or does history also tell us that the river’s
ecosystem, tourism, and river-based economies hardly missed a beat during
this supposedly 'catastrophic' event?
Note that this dredging was done by dirty, messy, and cumbersome
'clamshell' techniques (you know, the type G.E. shows on TV).
Today, that type of dredging is not allowed in areas where contamination
exists. There, as will be used in the Upper Hudson when the necessary clean-up
begins, hydraulic suction dredges will be used, which hardly disturb a
river’s ecosystem, let alone local communities. And under the EPA’s plans,
contaminated sediment will be landfilled anywhere in the
Hudson River Valley.
What is the real effect of dredging on a local community? Read
reporter Dina Cappiello’s recent article entitled 'Dredging,
and business, as usual' (Albany Times-Union, December 17,
2000). Cappiello's well-written piece is insightful, balanced and
informative on this subject.
As with most all the arguments about cleansing our river, the contention
by dredging opponents that the river will be 'shut down' for '10-20 years'
if the E.P.A. attempts a clean-up is unsupported by science, history, and
(Ken Dufty has been involved in Hudson River PCB issues
for over sixteen years and is executive director of the Rensselaer County
Environmental Management Council, and a founding member and former president
of Concerned Citizens for the Environment--a three state coalition of citizens
formed to promote sound energy policy. He may be reached via e-mail