Frequently Asked Questions
When did GE complete dredging in the Hudson?
GE completed dredging on October 3, 2015, and addressed 100 percent of the PCBs targeted by EPA. Despite the end of dredging, GEâ€™s work on the Hudson continues with a comprehensive evaluation of the floodplains along the riverâ€™s shoreline; long-term monitoring of environmental conditions in the river; and the ongoing cleanup of GEâ€™s former plant sites in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward.
Are conditions improving in the Hudson?
Yes. Data show the Hudson River dredging project is working.
PCB levels in water have dropped at every monitoring station along the Hudson, ranging from a 78% reduction near Fort Edward to a 54% reduction near Poughkeepsie. PCB levels in sediment have dropped as much as 96%, and PCB levels in samples representing all species of fish in the Upper Hudson have dropped 58%. Data on PCB levels from more than 1,100 sediment samples collected by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 2017 show 99.8% were below EPA's dredging criteria.
How or when will we know if dredging worked?
The data show the dredging project is working â€” PCB levels are down in water, sediment and species-weighted fish samples. EPAâ€™s overall goal is to protect human health and the environment. Now that EPAâ€™s comprehensive dredging project is completed, GE will perform a thorough, multi-year monitoring program, under the supervision of EPA and New York State. EPA has stated it will take five to eight additional years to collect the data needed to fully evaluate the riverâ€™s rate of recovery.
Why is New York State saying the job is not done?
The dredging project was completed in 2015. GE removed all of the PCBs that EPA targeted for removal, and met all of its commitments to EPA and New York State â€” the state does not dispute that. The evidence is clear that dredging is working; it is achieving the environmental benefits PEA and New York State sought and predicted. New York State strongly supported the completed remedy before and during the work, as evidenced by its concurrence in EPA's decision in favor of dredging in 2002. New York State also participated with EPA in overseeing the actual dredging work and was instrumental in every major decision about the project. The state is now saying it wants additional dredging beyond the massive projectâ€™s scope of work.
Some are calling for more dredging in the Hudson River. Is more dredging needed?
No. EPA has said there is no need for additional dredging in the Upper Hudson. The dredging project is delivering the environmental benefits that EPA and New York State sought and predicted â€” with PCB levels having dropped significant in water, and related declines in sediment and fish.
Why isnâ€™t dredging being performed in the Lower Hudson?
The first steps in determining what, if any, remedial action is warranted in the Lower Hudson involve an analysis of environmental data from the Upper and Lower Hudson, and an assessment of impacts from the scores of companies and municipal sewage treatment plants that have discharged to the Lower Hudson for the last 50 years or more. The good news is that dredging in the Upper Hudson has already had a major positive impact: the volume of PCBs reaching the lower river, as measured at Albany, has been reduced by 60%.
What about navigational dredging in the Champlain Canal?
The goal of the environmental dredging project was to remove sediments containing PCBs. The goal of navigational dredging is to deepen the channel for boat traffic. GE conducted the environmental dredging project. The responsibility for maintaining the depth of the navigation channel falls to the New York State Canal Corp. The good news is that the Upper Hudson River from Troy to Fort Edward is fully navigable and operational according to the New York State Canal Corporation.
What about a natural resource damage lawsuit?
Even though GE has met and continues to meet all of its obligations on the Hudson, a group of government agencies has been working to assess whether a legal claim should be brought for alleged natural resource damages on the Hudson. The agencies have been working on this project for more than 10 years, and thus far no claim has been filed. Voluminous scientific research conducted by GE and the other organizations, including government agencies, shows that natural resources and wildlife populations along the Upper Hudson are thriving, healthy and robust.
Is GE cleaning up its manufacturing facilities on the Hudson River?
Yes. For more than 30 years, GE has done extensive cleanup work at the former Hudson Falls and Fort Edward plants to address historic environmental issues and prevent PCBs or other chemicals from reaching the river or local communities. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, neither of GEâ€™s former manufacturing plants are a significant source of PCBs to the river at this time.
What are PCBs?
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are a class of stable chemicals consisting of 209 individual compounds. PCBs were widely used for fire prevention and as an insulator in transformers and capacitors because of their ability to withstand exceptionally high temperatures. They were also used in a variety of other industrial applications, including paints, newsprint, pumps and motors.
How did PCBs get in the Hudson?
Beginning in the 1940s, GE used PCBs as an insulating fluid in electrical capacitors manufactured at two plants along the river in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward, N.Y., about 50 miles north of Albany. GE discontinued its use of PCBs in 1977. When they were used, PCBs were discharged to the river in the plantsâ€™ waste streams, a common practice then. GE held the proper government permits to discharge PCBs to the river at all times required. Most of the material that was discharged to the Upper Hudson, including PCBs, accumulated behind a dam south of GEâ€™s Fort Edward plant. In 1973, the owner of the dam demolished it and the material that had built up behind it washed downstream, settling in sediments.