Rensselaer Libraries

Hudson River/PCBs

Posted: Jan 19, 2010

Hudson River PCBs SuperFund Site

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the lead agency for cleanup of the Hudson River PCB Superfund site. EPA and General Electric (GE) estimate that between 1947 and 1975, from 500,000 to 1.1 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were discharged from the Fort Edward and Hudson Falls facilities into the upper Hudson River. An estimated 500,000 to 700,000 pounds of PCBs remain in the river sediments.

In 1991, a subterranean source of PCBs near Baker's Falls, New York, was identified by GE, EPA, and New York State. This previously unidentified source was traced to GE's Hudson Falls Plant (Baker's Falls).

Studies of the site conducted in 1993 found pockets of extremely contaminated groundwater that oozed an oily substance. These "seeps" contained PCB oil in varying concentrations, ranging from hundreds of parts per million to 90 percent pure PCBs near an old discharge pipe. The studies also identified tons of heavily contaminated sediment in the raceways of the plant's old mill building. In June 1994, GE found more seeps of highly concentrated PCB oil in the river bottom below and next to the mill raceway. The GE Hudson Falls site is a significant source of PCBs that continues to affect the Hudson River.

In 1984, EPA issued a record of decision (ROD) for a portion of the Hudson River Superfund site. The ROD called for (1) in-place capping, containment, and monitoring of remnant deposit sediments; (2) a treatability study to evaluate the effectiveness of the Waterford Treatment Plant in removing PCBs from Hudson River water; and (3) an interim no action decision concerning river sediments. In December 1989, EPA announced that the no-action decision would be reassessed.

EPA issued a ROD in February 2002, which addressed the risks to people and ecological receptors associated with PCBs in the sediments of the 40-miles of the Upper Hudson River. The ROD indicated that PCB contamination in the Hudson River floodplains would be investigated concurrent with the remedial design process. In October 2005, EPA took a significant step toward cleaning up PCBs in the Hudson River by reaching an agreement with GE, requiring it to begin the dredging called for in EPA’s 2002 ROD. The agreement was published in the October 13, 2005, Federal Register, followed by a 30-day public comment period. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and EPA granted a request to extend the public comment period by 30 days. The comment period closed on December 14, 2005. The Notice of Lodging and Consent Decree are available in the Administrative Record.

Prior to 2002, EPA and GE developed models for the Upper Hudson that predicted temporal changes in surface sediment concentrations under different remedial alternatives. Following EPA’s ROD in 2002, over 9000 core samples were collected from the Upper Hudson during remedial design. The comparison of predicted and observed surface sediment PCB concentrations suggests that both models underestimated future PCB concentrations under natural recovery scenarios, with measured concentrations from 2002-2007 exceeding the upper bound of model predictions for 2003. In addition, PCB concentrations following the selected remedial alternative estimated from the recent data are approximately five times higher than EPA model estimates for River Sections 2 and 3.

Implementation of the Phase 1 remedy commenced on May 15, 2009. Design of the Phase 2 remedy is in progress. Remedial investigation of the Upper Hudson River floodplains has also begun. Some properties were sampled by EPA and GE in 2008."

DARRP (Damage Assessment, Remediation & Restoration Program)
Northeast Region
Detailed Background Case: Hudson River, NY

Official Government Sites

EPA Hudson River PCBs SuperFund Site : Official EPA project site. Includes news releases, draft work plans, fact sheets and progress reports. Also provides information on how to subscribe to EPA's Hudson River Listserv to automatically receive notices of public meetings, news releases, etc.

CLU-IN, Hazardous Waste Clean Up Information : "The Hazardous Waste Clean-up Information (CLU-IN) Web Site provides information about innovative treatment technology to the hazardous waste remediation community. It describes programs, organizations, publications, and other tools for federal and state personnel, consulting engineers, technology developers and vendors, remediation contractors, researchers, community groups, and individual citizens. The site was developed by the U.S. EPA but is intended as a forum for all waste remediation stakeholders"

Background Information

"The non-profit organization Hudson River Sloop Clearwater was created to defend and restore the Hudson River, one of the great and historic rivers of this nation." Presents The Hudson River PCB Story with reports, news, fact sheets, and resource guides. Includes Hudson River PCB Pollution Timeline : A detailed chronology of the history of PCBs in the Hudson River and steps that have been taken to address the problems.

Riverkeeper, Inc. "Our mission is to safeguard the ecological integrity of the Hudson River, its tributaries and the watershed of New York City (protecting the city's drinking water supply) by tracking down and stopping polluters." Special "Clean Up GE PCBs" section.

Bioremediation and Phytoremediation Glossary : "This is a glossary terms related to bioremediation (biological treatment) and phytoremediation (remediation using green plants) of environmental pollutants. Links to other environmental glossaries are at the bottom of the page."

Health Effects of PCBs

Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry : ToxFAQ for Polychlorinated Biphenyls

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency : PCBs and Human Health

New York State Department of Health : 2009-2010 Health Advisories: Chemicals in Sportfish and Game

Survey of Hudson River Anglers and an Estimate of Their Exposure to PCBs : September 30, 1998, Prepared by: NYS Department of Health, under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

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