High levels of PCBs in fish still pose concerns on N.Y.’s Hudson River

It appears eating fish from the Hudson River is still bad for your health. And, ultimately, this is bad for the environment, too.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released an independent report on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s review of the cleanup of Polychlorinated Biphenyl contamination in the Hudson River. Using EPA’s guidance, the DEC finds the cleanup is not protective of the public or the environment. In an effort to improve the cleanup, New York State sent a letter with the report to the EPA prior to the EPA’s anticipated release of its Five Year Review in 2017.

Using EPA criteria for the agency’s five-year Superfund reviews, DEC determined that high concentrations of PCBs remain in fish in portions of the Hudson River resulting in human health and ecological risks in excess of EPA’s acceptable risk range. The DEC also found that, as highlighted in a previous Five Year Review, higher than anticipated sediment concentrations will remain after dredging, indicating that the targeted reductions in fish PCB concentrations will not be achieved in the time frames the EPA relied upon when choosing the remedial plan for the Hudson River.

“It’s simple. DEC is calling on the EPA to finish the job and hold GE accountable for cleaning up the Hudson River,”  DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “If EPA won’t do the job and protect New Yorkers and the environment, DEC is ready to step in and lead.”

DEC developed the report using EPA’s basis for selecting the remedy and the data and information gathered during the dredging project, which reveal cancer and non-cancer health risks well above the acceptable risk range for people who ate fish from both the Upper Hudson River (between Hudson Falls and Troy) and the Lower Hudson River (from Troy south to Manhattan). Risks to ecological receptors such as fish-eating animals were also above EPA’s acceptable range.

EPA’s current five-year review must thoroughly quantify the rates of decline in PCB concentrations based on all available fish, water, and sediment data, and make reasonable and conservative assumptions regarding future trends. Recent analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others illustrates that recovery rates for fish in the Lower Hudson may be far longer than the EPA anticipated.

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