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Anti-dredgers not supported by science, history or common sense

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 channel open. 

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, no 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 common sense. 

(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 at: )


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