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Agency to Hold Public Meetings in Saratoga Springs and Poughkeepsie

FOR RELEASE: Friday, February 1, 2002

 (#02005) New York, New York B U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Administrator Christie Whitman and Regional Administrator Jane Kenny today took a major step toward a healthier Hudson River in signing the Record of Decision (ROD) on a cleanup plan for the river.  The final plan calls for dredging 2.65 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment from a 40-mile stretch of the upper Hudson to remove an estimated 150,000 pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  The Agency also announced that it will establish a field office in the upper Hudson region staffed by an experienced senior manager who will coordinate design activities working with the community.

"The final cleanup plan illustrates this Administration's commitment to safeguarding human health and the environment," said Whitman.  "The Hudson River is a national treasure and this plan brings us closer to one of my overall goals -- leaving our water purer for future generations. We are moving ahead with this cleanup using an open process and will incorporate performance standards that promote accountability and ensure that we are protecting human health and the environment."

"We are committing to an open process that will give affected communities and interested parties the chance to comment on critical issues, such as facility siting and the development of performance standards," said Kenny, who heads EPA's Regional office responsible for carrying out the cleanup plan.  "Working through partnerships as we move forward with the cleanup will ensure that we meet our environmental goals."

Before dredging can begin, EPA must prepare a design for the project. This design phase, which will include the development of performance standards and the siting of dewatering facilities in consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, is expected to take about three years.

The ROD contains performance standards for air quality and noise, consistent with state and federal law.  Other important performance standards, including those for resuspension and production rates during dredging, will be developed over the next year with input from the public and in consultation with the state and federal natural resource trustees. These enforceable performance standards will be based on environmental and scientific criteria to promote accountability and to ensure that the 
cleanup meets the human health and environmental  protection objectives of the ROD.

The performance standards will be peer reviewed by a panel of independent scientists before they are applied to the cleanup.  EPA also will conduct extensive monitoring throughout the life of the project to evaluate whether the cleanup is achieving its intended environmental goals.

Dredging will eventually be conducted in two phases.  The details of where and how much sediment will be dredged during the first phase will be worked out during the design.  The control of continuing discharges of PCBs into the river from General Electric facilities is also a concern.  General Electric is expected to take actions to control a major source of PCBs coming from its Hudson Falls plant.  Implementation of this source control action is expected to begin during the design period for EPA's cleanup plan.

A key element of the ROD is the commitment to a rigorous and meaningful community involvement program for the Hudson River cleanup.  Building on the extensive public process followed during the Hudson River Reassessment, the Agency will bring together elected officials, community groups, key environmental organizations and members of the public to take a fresh look at the community involvement process. 

The development of a new community involvement program will be facilitated by EPA consultants experienced in consensus building.  They will conduct interviews with groups and individuals to identify key stakeholders, assess priority concerns and solicit suggestions for a new process. EPA will then convene the groups and individuals identified by the consultants for a series of facilitated sessions to develop a workable process. Jane Kenny will host public meetings in Saratoga Springs and in Poughkeepsie to discuss the ROD and discuss next steps.

EPA will continue to keep the public informed throughout the project. The Agency has set up a list server, an electronic news service to notify the public about meetings and other important milestones.  The Agency will hold frequent public meetings, distribute fact sheets and other written materials and regularly update its Hudson River Web site. During the design phase, the Agency will maintain regular contact with interested parties to get input on key issues.

A 200-mile portion of the Hudson River was declared a federal Superfund site in 1984 because of widespread PCB contamination.  The PCBs have bioaccumulated in fish and pose a potential risk of cancer and other health problems for the people who eat them.  The final ROD on a plan to clean up the river was developed after years of scientific study and with extensive public input. 

EPA received more than 70,000 comments on the proposed cleanup plan.  The PCBs were deposited over a 30-year period from two General Electric plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, New York. EPA also reaffirmed its commitment to a full public process that encourages meaningful discourse on critical issues such as the development of performance standards, dewatering facility siting and a range of issues with the potential to impact Hudson River communities.

Public meetings to explain the ROD and how the Agency will move forward during the design phase will be held on February 13 at the Saratoga Sheraton Hotel B 534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 and on February 20 at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel, 40 Civic Center Plaza, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601.

Both meetings start at 7:00 p.m.  Copies of the final Record of Decision and a summary of responses to the 70,000 public comments are available on EPA's Web site at and at the 16 information repositories (listed on the web site).

# # #

* Editor's Note: Another EPA Web site with information is:

For Immediate Release -- February 8, 2001

Contact: Pat Costner
Source: Greenpeace
P.O. Box 548
or 512 County Road 2663
Eureka Springs, Arkansas 72632
Phone: 501.253.8440
Fax: 501.253.5540

Key conclusion:  Volatile losses from activities involving dredging, dewatering and other remedial technologies (low temperature thermal desorption, aerobic biodegradation, lime solidification, biopiles and others) may result in the global redistribution of PCB's and other organic contaminants.

Wunderlich, M., Scrudato, R., Falanga, L., 1998. Volatile losses and global redistribution of PCB's during soil remediation. Presented at National Conference on Environmental Remediation Science and Technology, Greensboro, NC, Sept. 8-10, 1998.

Recent research by the Environmental Research Center and the University at Albany School of Public Health indicates PCB's readily volatilize during evaporative losses of water. These findings suggest significant quantities of organic contaminants may be released to the atmosphere during remedial measures involving excavation, dredging, dewatering and drying of contaminated solids.

Laboratory experiments conducted by the Environmental Research Center on PCB-contaminated sediments collected from New York Superfund sites and air dried indicate 14-23% of the total PCB concentration can be lost through volatilization at ambient temperature and relative humidity.

Rewetting the dried sediment resulted in an additional 7.5% loss. Volatile losses of PCB's as high as 74-76% occurred in sediment samples suspended in water which wre allowed to evaporate over a 7 day period. The lower and ortho chlorinated congeners volatilized preferentially and the loss was directly correlated to the evaporative loss of water.

These results have implications on the handling and remediation of PCB-contaminated sediments with specific emphasis on the evaporative loss of water. Volatile losses from activities involving dredging, dewatering and other remedial technologies (low temperature thermal desorption, aerobic biodegradation, lime solidification, biopiles and others) may result in the global redistribution of PCB's and other organic contaminants.

# # # 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- Wednesday, December 6, 2000

SOURCE: The General Electric Company

Contact Persons: Mark L. Behan (518) 792-3856
                           Beth Comstock (203) 373-3871

EPA's Absurd Dredging Proposal Sets Course for Environmental Devastation of Hudson River

ALBANY, N.Y. - December 6, 2000 - EPA's proposal today charts a course of environmental devastation for the Upper Hudson River for a generation or more. The proposal is absurd.

EPA has willfully ignored its own finding in 1984 that a massive dredging program like the one proposed today would be "devastating to the river ecosystem." This proposal makes no sense because, as people who live near the river know, the Hudson is dramatically cleaner today than it was when EPA rejected dredging sixteen years ago.

This outrageous proposal by EPA bureaucrats - to "save" the river by destroying it - is not supported by science or reality:

  • PCBs in the Upper Hudson pose no health risk in normal recreational and commercial use of the river. EPA itself says the river is safe for swimming, wading, boating and even use as a source of treated drinking water.

  • EPA acknowledges that the declining PCB levels in the Upper Hudson pose a "risk" only to those who consume extraordinary amounts of fish - half a ton - over a 40-year period. This hypothetical risk is effectively contained by New York State's 25-year ban on possession of fish from the Upper Hudson. 

  • GE's Hudson River clean-up program has already produced dramatic benefits for the upper river - it's helped to reduce PCB levels in water and fish by 90 percent in the last 20 years. GE has invested nearly $200 million in controlling and reducing sources of PCBs to the Hudson. GE's proposal - completing the elimination of the last remaining PCB sources to the river coupled with natural sedimentation - is more effective than dredging, without the destruction of the environment and the disruption of Hudson Valley communities. EPA's own computer model of the Upper Hudson shows dredging to have virtually no benefit for the river's recovery.

  • Dredging will devastate the ecosystem of the Upper Hudson. Abundant and healthy fish and wildlife populations will be put at risk. Dredging will destroy wetlands, wildlife food sources and habitat and it may slow or reverse the declines in PCB levels. 

  • EPA's proposal flies in the face of the repeated failure of dredging projects at other waterways to achieve the reduced PCB levels that EPA says are necessary to provide any benefit in the Hudson. A GE study of 26 environmental dredging projects showed that higher levels of PCBs or other contaminants were seen immediately after dredging at many sites. For instance, PCB levels in the water of the Fox River in Wisconsin were 12 times higher downstream than upstream during a recent dredging project. Average PCB levels in surface sediment in the Fox River were 3.6 ppm before dredging and 75 ppm after dredging. At a dredging project on the Grasse River in northern New York, PCB levels in fish increased 20 to 50 times during dredging and remained elevated for several years after dredging.
EPA also has ignored the objections of more than 60 Hudson Valley communities that have opposed dredging and may be forced to endure a generation of EPA-sponsored disruption of the river.

This action from the EPA bureaucracy is a misguided attempt to punish a corporation that lawfully discharged PCBs 30 year ago, not a sensible effort to advance public health or the ecosystem of the river.

GE does not believe dredging the Upper Hudson River is environmentally responsible, and we will join forces with others who share this view to fight EPA's dredging proposal during the regulatory process. 

For more information, please visit G.E.'s Web site:

# # #

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Subject: GE Suit Charges Superfund Provisions Unconstitutional 

Source:  The General Electric Company
Contact:  Mark Behan, (518) 792-3856
               Beth Comstock, (203) 373-3871

FAIRFIELD, Conn., Nov. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The General Electric Company today filed suit in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. seeking to have provisions of the federal Superfund law declared invalid for failing to provide constitutional due process.

The provisions give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uncontrolled authority to order intrusive remedial projects of unlimited scope and duration in non-emergency situations. The provisions fail to provide for constitutionally adequate hearings or an opportunity for judicial review.

EPA's authority to issue such unilateral orders -- which often require large-scale, multi-year remediation -- violates due process in two basic ways:

Superfund fails to provide any kind of neutral hearing prior to EPA's order.  EPA alone selects the evidence it will use and the scope of required actions, without any independent court review.

Superfund fails to provide timely and meaningful judicial review even after a unilateral EPA order.  If a party believes such an order is unlawful and refuses to comply with it, then the party immediately faces severe fines and treble damages.  Yet, EPA, not the party, unconstitutionally controls the timing and content of any subsequent independent court review, and review delayed is review denied.

Professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard University Law School, who represents GE in the case, said: "This is an Alice-in-Wonderland regime of punishment first, trial afterwards -- even in a non-emergency setting.  The statute gives EPA the power to skew the evidence, ignore other points of view and order action without any independent review.  Then the party has to do the work and wait years for a hearing.  Even then, the long-delayed hearing is inadequate because it is not impartial.  This offends the Constitution."

Professor Tribe continued:  "Because it deprives parties like GE of liberty and property but fails to provide an impartial and timely hearing -- a basic protection guaranteed to all persons by the Constitution -- the Superfund provision is flatly unconstitutional on its face."

The suit maintains that these unilateral orders from EPA are totally out of line with the hearing and judicial review protections afforded by other administrative agencies in non-emergency situations.

In addition to Professor Tribe, GE is represented in the case by noted constitutional lawyer Carter Phillips of Sidley & Austin.

# # #

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