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Selling deception, the G.E. way

by Ken Dufty
Troy, New York
January 23, 2001
General Electric, in its incredibly expensive advertising campaign to convince you to let the Company off the hook for ruining the Hudson River, is employing every nasty trick in the adman's book.  Utterly false does not even describe this misleading advertising campaign by the pros.

G.E. is choking the airwaves with unbridled lies which, if endorsed by otherwise well-intentioned folks, could have negative consequences on the future health of all living things in the Hudson Valley. This letter will visit the major statements being broadcast by G.E. in its advertising campaign, and will counter each with a statement of the facts, truth being G.E.'s second casualty in this debate--the first being the health of the Hudson River.

G.E.'s Statement:  Recreation on the Hudson will be off-limits for 10-20 years if dredging proceeds.

Fact:  G.E.'s statement is simply untrue. The history of remediation in other rivers and lakes around the nation and the world proves that hydraulic suction dredging is safe, non-invasive, and something which can be conducted while recreation on the waterway continues unimpeded. Unchecked clamshell dredging of the channel in the 1960's and 1970's resulted in the removal of millions of yards of sediment from the Hudson. Yet, the river was not 'ruined', and no one seemed to take much notice at the time. G.E.'s claim that the river will be shut down for 10-20 years if a U.S.-E.P.A. clean-up is ordered is nothing more than an attempt to generate hysteria amongst those who enjoy using the River for recreational purposes.

G.E.'s Statement:  We had a permit to discharge PCB's into the Hudson River. We shouldn't be punished for our lawful activity.

Fact:  Like the Company's other claims about its discharges of PCB's into the River, this claim distorts the truth in an attempt to make it unrecognizable. Indeed, G.E. discharged toxic PCB's into the Hudson River for 29 years, from 1946 to 1974, without any permit whatsoever. It is during this time that the majority of damage was done to the river's ecosystem. Further, even after G.E. received a permit in 1975 for discharge of PCB's into the river, the Company regularly violated that permit's limits. To call the Company's dumping of PCB's 'lawful' is pure hogwash.

G.E.'s Statement:  The Hudson River is cleaning itself through a natural healing process. We should let that process continue.

Fact:  While the River is becoming 'cleaner' in certain aspects because sewage and noxious chemical discharges into the River have been tightly regulated and limited since the mid-1970's, this 'healing' process has done little about the 'open sore' of PCB contamination.  PCB contamination is invisible to the eye and leaves no taint of smell, but it continues to impact the River, the River estuary, and the surrounding ecosystem. In truth, PCB's are continuing to move through the river. Nearly 500 pounds of PCB's wash over the Troy dam every year, spreading throughout the lower Hudson, into New York Harbor, and from there into the Atlantic Ocean. There are over 30 areas where concentrated oily PCB's are available to the river's ecosystem. Unless these contaminated sediments are removed from the river, levels of PCB's in fish are expected to be many times the threshold deemed safe for human consumption for more than 70 years. Further, the effect of PCB contamination on the food chain, upon wildlife, and upon the natural resources of the entire Hudson River estuary/ecosystem is only just beginning to be understood.

G.E.'s Statement:  Local communities will be disrupted once trucks filled with PCB-laden mud start clogging the streets and roads.

Fact:  This contention is wholly unsubstantiated and appears to be yet another attempt by G.E. to fuel the fires of hysteria against remediation of the River. The U.S.-E.P.A. has stated that little to no truck traffic will be involved in transporting the PCB-laden sediment during and after its removal from the river bottom. When contamination is removed through hydraulic suction dredging, platforms are to be lowered into the river, complete with silt curtains and video-guidance and monitoring cameras. The contaminated sediment is to be  vacuumed-up and placed into sealed containers on the barge above. Once filled, the containers will be off-loaded to a water treatment plant, where the sediments will be de-watered and dried. When that treatment is complete, the dried material will next be loaded into sealed containers which will be transported by barge to a site where the containers will be loaded onto rail cars for transport to an approved landfill.  G.E.'s video images of trucks dripping toxic mud from the tailgates into an open environment are an obvious attempt to frighten the public.


(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: )

Read the related letter to the Editor:
Dufty: Being the same as G.E.?

Contact G.E.'s board of directors, as well as your elected officials!

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