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What Is Happening With The Sediment Being Dredged From The Hudson River?

2009 July 17
go to EPA's Hudson cleanup site
In 2009 dredging began in the Upper Hudson River to remove sediments with PCBs. Read more.

I was viewing the dredging from the Fort Edward yacht basin with many curious onlookers recently, and people wanted to know what would become of the PCB-laden dirt and debris.

I told them the barge in front of us was nearly filled to capacity and would soon be moved by tugboat to a processing facility. A 110-acre facility specially constructed on the Champlain Canal between Locks 7 and 8 in Fort Edward is the sole processing facility for the project’s dredged material. There, the sediment and debris is sorted to remove remaining sand, sticks, silt and rocks (anything larger than 5/8 of an inch in diameter is separated from smaller material). Water is added to the remaining PCB-laden dirt to create slurry and to help move the material through pipes to 12 specially manufactured filter presses housed inside a sediment dewatering building. The presses squeeze the slurry to remove the water, and the water goes to a water-treatment plant to be cleaned to drinking-water standards before being returned to the Champlain Canal. The material remaining is called “filter cake.” The cake is then placed inside impervious liners inside railcars that make up 81-car trains. These trains leave the area every few days on their way to a licensed disposal facility in Andrews, Texas.

Right now, as the flow of the river allows, dredging operations are taking place 24 hours a day, six days a week, (Sundays are reserved for contingencies and maintenance) and sediment and water treatment are taking place around the clock, seven days a week. The project has 450 dedicated railcars continuously looped between here and the disposal facility. More information about this project can be found at the following websites: and

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.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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11 Responses leave one →
  1. Joan Saez permalink
    July 17, 2009

    How can we be sure the drinking water is safe?

  2. LeRoy Musick permalink
    July 18, 2009

    My Dear Kristen Skopeck: Dredging PCB’s and all other hazordous
    waste can be safely disposed of and not as
    expensive or time consuming as you
    indicate in your article.

    Please contact me and I will tell you of a
    truly safe way to DESTROY these
    hazordous waste without any emmissios
    or harm to the environment.

    LeRoy Musick

  3. Edgardo Berraz permalink
    July 18, 2009

    It’s very important the treatment of the solid waste in the Hudson river,because in that sensible area between Newark, New York and New Island,the corruption of that water course could cause unsuitable big problems.It’s impresible that 450 cartrackings will be needed for remove the waste.

  4. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    July 20, 2009

    Dredging the Hudson to eliminate the threat of PCPs is a great thing. I am glad that someone is doing something about that problem. It is too bad that the only facility, it seems, that can take the waste is in Texas. With trains having to run between New York and Texas, there is always the chance of derailment and a big problem to be faced in some community should that happen. That said, rail transportation is a much safer option than putting truck loads of PCPs on the highway. It sounds like you are doing a goohd job. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  5. Skopeck permalink
    July 22, 2009

    Ms. Saez,

    All communities downriver from the project (in the 40-mile project area) are receiving driking water from a source other than the river, or they are having their water filtered using carbon (which removes 95-99 percent of the PCBs). The communities further downriver who still draw from the Hudson are having their water monitored by NYS Department of Health. No one to our knowledge is drinking unfiltered river water, and the monitoring at the top of the project area where the dredging is occuring has confirmed that the project has not caused an exceedance of the drinking water for PCBs (500 parts per trillion).

  6. Skopeck permalink
    July 22, 2009

    Hello Mr. Musick,

    I can confidently tell you all remediation options for PCBs were considered by EPA before moving forth with the selected remedy. The amount of sediment being dredged (enough to fill two football stadiums) makes many other options impractical…and would take several more years than the selected option. Nevertheless, thank you for your interest in the project.

  7. Skopeck permalink
    July 22, 2009

    Mr. Berraz,

    I agree with you. The size and scope of this project is truly a marvel. The Hudson is an impressive natural resource which is enjoyed by millions of people, and this project will greatly improve the overall health of the river.

  8. Skopeck permalink
    July 22, 2009

    Hello Mr. Bailey,

    Rail transportation is a safe and effective way to transport the PCBs to the licensed disposal facility. Because the main risk pathway associated with PCBs is through ingestion (eating them), if a train were to derail, the scene would be handled by emergency responders who would basically scoop the sediment back into the railcar to complete the trip. The PCBs would not present a major threat by becoming airborne (again, they are attached to sediment).

  9. lisa permalink
    July 28, 2009

    Can you explain what happens at the disposal facility?

  10. Skopeck permalink
    July 29, 2009

    Hi Lisa,

    The sediment is being taken to a landfill operated by Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS). It is a 1,338-acre hazardous and radioactive waste processing and disposal facility west of Andrews, Texas, next to the New Mexico border. There, the waste is deposited into cells buried in the ground (surrounded by clay). The facility is permitted under the Toxic Substances Control Act to accept PCB-containing waste.

  11. john vargo permalink
    July 20, 2011

    Lisa would it be possible to foward me a photo of the disposal site. thank you JV please send to above e-mail

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