Frequently Asked Questions
When did GE complete dredging in the Hudson?
GE completed dredging on October 3, 2015. Now that dredging has been completed, 100 percent of the PCBs targeted by EPA have been addressed. 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 plant sites in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward.
Are conditions improving in the Hudson?
Yes. The data are limited, but early monitoring results are encouraging. Data collected and analyzed in 2016 show PCB levels in water have declined from pre-dredging levels at every location where samples were collected. In the Upper Hudson north of Albany, PCB levels in water declined as much as 60% from pre-dredging levels. EPA expects these declines to continue. Information about PCB levels in water is important because PCB levels in water and sediment influence PCB levels in fish.
How or when will we know if dredging worked?
EPAâ€™s overall goal is to protect human health and the environment. The specific goal of dredging is to reduce PCB levels in fish, which is considered the main route for human exposure. Now that EPAâ€™s comprehensive dredging project is completed, GE will perform a thorough, multi-year monitoring program to assess PCB levels in fish, sediments and water to determine the actual rate of decline in PCB levels going forward. 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.
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 or Lower Hudson because the dredging project is expected to meet its environmental objectives and be protective of public health and the environment.
Why isnâ€™t dredging being performed in the Lower Hudson?
EPA evaluated conditions in the Lower Hudson from Troy to New York City during its 12-year study of the river and did not recommend dredging in the Lower Hudson. EPA concluded that dredging in the Upper Hudson, along with the riverâ€™s ongoing natural recovery, was reducing PCB levels in fish and was protective of human health and the environment for both the Upper and Lower Hudson.
Shouldnâ€™t GE keep the dredging projectâ€™s processing, treatment and transportation facility operational just in case more dredging needs to occur in the future?
No. EPA determined that additional dredging was not necessary. Therefore, the large processing and transportation facilities constructed for the dredging project were no longer needed. GE dismantled the facilities and returned the properties to their rightful owners, as required by GEâ€™s agreements with EPA.
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 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 both the 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.