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Dredging Project Will Be A Load – And Stress – Reliever

2009 September 25

Recently, EPA was asked to defend the fact that dredging stirs up PCBs in the river, which causes more PCBs to go downriver and over the Federal dam in Troy. This is called “loading,” and we monitor it closely. If you live south of Albany, I’m sure you appreciate that we try not to send any more PCBs your way than we have to in order to get this work done.

The river bottom doesn’t keep the PCBs locked safely inside a mud sandwich. This river scours, floods and changes its course. So loading of PCB’s was always a problem. .It’s impossible to know for sure, but engineers estimate about 500 pounds of PCBs a year were loaded in the past. Now, because of dredging, we actually know the PCB levels in the river, and we know there’s much more contamination than we estimated, so the loading was probably more too. However, by dredging we’re finally doing something to lower the PCB levels, forever. I get a lot of satisfaction watching each loaded barge, because I know that contaminated sediment is no longer contributing to the problem.

Dredging opponents point out that the monitoring station nearest the dredging, and another about 18 miles away, have exceeded the PCB loading amount targeted for this year and so the project should stop. We explained the load target represents an overall requirement for the project and not for a single year. The higher loads during this dredge season will be addressed through lessons learned and improvements recommended for future dredging.

I’m a newcomer to Fort Edward and the dredging debate. Having never lived near a river before, I didn’t understand how important a river can be in people’s lives. Since moving here, I’ve spent hours and hours talking to people who are personally and, in some cases emotionally affected by the project. I‘m very sympathetic — they didn’t create the horrendous pollution problem, but they’ve been forced to deal with it for years, and it’s taken a stressful toll. I’ve spent countless hours on the river thinking about the far-reaching consequences of the PCB contamination. After five months of dredging, I’ve learned firsthand how persistent, shallow, mobile and voluminous the PCBs are in the Upper Hudson. But, as of September 5, there are about 190,000 cubic yards less of contaminated sediment contributing to the stress and loading problems, and I’m proud to be part of the monumental effort that made that happen. As intrusive and irritating as the project is for some people, it’s very important for the safety and sanity of future generations.

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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3 Responses leave one →
  1. Edgardo Berraz permalink
    September 25, 2009

    It’s not a reply,it’s only to congratulate Mr.Skopeck for his tireless work to profit all in all people who live or depend of the river.If much more persons deicate yours time in the same side that Mr Skopeck made it, many problems of pollution and contamination will be solves.Many thanks.

  2. David Bower permalink
    September 26, 2009

    I congratulate the EPA for actually doing something. Most of the Regulators across the globe are so fearful of creating additional impact the problems are not dealt with.
    THe mitigation of human impact on rivers needs to be dealt with and PDQ. One reason the rivers are flooding, and scouring is the additional sediment placed by run off and the associated dymanic contaminant load associated with it.
    Having said that it is possible to dredge a river without creating scour and down stream load, and it no more expensive than the standard method unfortunatley it does entail using a dredge that is different to the standard types, but I’ve had little luck in convincing someone to build one for this application. Not only does it dredge without stirring the river bed it removes contaminants including pcb’s, heavy metals, organics etc and improves water nutrients.
    A proven approach but not adpoted unfortunatley.
    Anyway well done EPA

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    September 28, 2009

    Taking on getting the pcbs out of the Hudson was a very big, but very important job. Critical for the river and for the health of the people along it. There is a special type of dredge that can remove the contaminated sediment without sending contamination downstream, according to the previous writer. Cost of such a dredge may have been a consideration. But there may be a way to fund such a project–either a newly built dredge or retrofitting a current one. The Obama Administration and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation are interested in investing some of the ARRA funds in the smaller shipyards which will be important later on for the new Marine Highway and the U.S. Flag Merchant Marine. EPA has some ARRA grant funding and other funding. Maybe EPA could get enough of its funding along with DOT ARRA grants to build the special dredge in one of New York’s shipyards and both put shipyard workers back to work and get a needed piece of equipment. Thank you and best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

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