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An Historic Day for the Hudson

2009 May 22

About the author: Kristen Skopeck is originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She is an 11-year Air Force veteran and was stationed in California, Ohio, Texas, Portugal, and New York. After working for the USDA for three years, Kristen joined EPA in 2007 and moved to Glens Falls, NY to be a member of the Hudson River PCB dredging project team. She likes to spend her time reading, writing, watching movies, walking, and meeting new people.

go to EPA's Hudson cleanup site
In 2009 dredging began in the Upper Hudson River to remove sediments with PCBs. Read more.

Thousands of hours of planning and investigation culminated in the first dredge bucket being lowered into the Upper Hudson River on May 15, 2009. I was there to watch a diverse crowd, many with Cheshire Cat grins and some more dubious, take in the scene, as a bright blue dredge bucket slowly lowered into the water and pulled up a bucketful of PCB-laden muck. Also watching were reporters from many media outlets, and even a group of journalism students, all armed with cameras and itching for interviews. Everyone there was reminded of the 30-plus years of wrangling between EPA, General Electric, environmental groups, and citizens that led up to this historic day.

The 40-miles of the Upper Hudson between Fort Edward and Troy, New York contain thousands of pounds of a potentially cancer-causing chemical called polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The entire dredging project targets the removal of about 248,600 pounds of PCBs that EPA scientists know are situated in the river in a way that is having a toxic impact on fish. They know because they have studied more than 50,000 sediment samples taken in a polka dot pattern across the 40 miles. Incidentally, they found some pockets of PCBs are buried deeply and shouldn’t be disturbed, but the places being targeted are relatively shallow (many between six inches and three feet) and have to come out.

As the Community Involvement Coordinator on the project, I am the affected peoples’ advocate. It is important to me that people understand how the project is being orchestrated and that EPA’s oversight will ensure it is done in a safe and efficient manner. One of the tools I’ll be using to do so is this blog. I’ll update it regularly, and I’ll invite other project members to join in the dialogue, so we can relate what is happening on the project in a timely, unfiltered way. If you have any specific questions please email me at skopeck.kristen@epa.gov.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Mkolian permalink
    May 22, 2009

    What a task. Amazing it has been 30 years. Puget Sound has a similiar issue with Boeing and PCBs (yet to be resolved). Regarding the implications with disturbing the sediment, I assume there is downstream water quality monitoring (chemistry and biological) to determine the effects of this project. Are there booms set up to capture suspended solids and other particles?

  2. Skopeck permalink
    May 26, 2009

    Mkolian~ You are correct…. there far field (downstream of dredging) monitors that are collecting information on PCB resuspension. There are near field (positioned around each dredge operation) monitors that are collecting “real time” data info on things like turbidity, total suspended solids, and disolved oxygen. There are no booms set up to capture suspended solids. There is a website (www.hudsondredgingdata.com) that gives a rundown of all the various monitoring going on…and the results.

  3. karen permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Is anything being done for the Mohawk River, specifically around the old GE site at Schenectady?

  4. Skopeck permalink
    June 4, 2009

    Hi Karen, I’m not aware of any current environmental cleanup projects involving the Mohawk. However, my expertise focuses on the Hudson River PCBs cleanup.

  5. irvine permalink
    July 2, 2009

    wow, earth surgery!

  6. karen permalink
    October 15, 2009

    Do you have target dates and objectives set up?

  7. karen permalink
    June 4, 2010

    A year has passed…what has been achieved in cleaning up the PCBs?

  8. karen permalink
    June 4, 2010

    A year has passed…what has been accomplished?

  9. Chicago Web Design permalink
    November 29, 2010

    I think an achievement can be done through helping each other tasks.

  10. Anonymous permalink
    December 27, 2011

    Another year has passed, and hundreds more died of cancer in my hometown. You are not doing enough.

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