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.