US EPA decides to uphold the Clinton Administration plan to dredge the Hudson River

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to uphold a decision by the previous administration last December to dredge 2.65 million cubic yards (1.79 million cubic metres) of silt from the Hudson River, in which 1.1 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are thought to have been dumped by the power company General Electric.

Although PCBs were banned in the US in 1977, the pollution has arisen from the dumping of the chemical by General Electric during the preceding 35 years, and has contaminated fish, which the New York State has prohibited people from eating. However, the EPA’s announcement comes despite considerable local resistance to the plan, which is likely to result in the destruction of important aquatic habitats and wetlands, and will damage river banks for 17 miles, say its opponents.

“The Administration is committed to cleaning up the Hudson River in a manner that is environmentally sound and is responsive to the concerns of the affected communities,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.

In response to the EPA’s announcement, General Electric (GE) has stated that it is disappointed with the decision which, the company says, will cause more harm than good. “This is a loss for the people of the area who overwhelmingly oppose this project and the decades of disruption it will bring to their communities,” said the company in a statement. “It appears that neither sound science nor the voices of these residents played a part in the EPA’s decision.”

“GE has invested $200 million in Hudson River research and restoration projects over the past 20 years and has met every commitment made to state and federal regulators,” the statement adds. “This had led to remarkable improvement in the river during this period.

However, the NGO American Rivers has welcomed the EPA’s announcement, saying that the technique which is to be used to dredge the river has a proven track record on safety.

The EPA’s dredging plan is currently in the form of a draft proposal which it is currently circulating for interagency review. The final plan is expected to be published in late September.

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