Columbia County Supports a Clean Hudson River

PCB levels are dangerously high and GE should be held accountable

December 11, 2019

On December 11, 2019, Columbia County voted unanimously to file an amicus curiae brief in support of a clean Hudson River.

Many people rely on the Hudson River for fishing, recreation, tourism, and commerce. GE caused serious economic and environmental harm to Columbia County residents when it dumped over a million pounds of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a known human carcinogen, into the Hudson River. The pollution led to the Hudson River to be designated as a Superfund site, a designation for highly toxic areas.


Previous remediation efforts were inadequate. In 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found 54 tons of PCBs remain in the Upper River site. Additionally, the report found the previous cleanup efforts were not adequate to protect human health and the environment. The report also noted the efforts focused on northern parts of the river, and the Lower Hudson River section, including Columbia County communities, received no health or environmental benefits. According to the EPA’s own analysis, it will be over 50 years before New Yorkers can safely eat one half-pound fish meal from the Hudson River once a week without negative health effects.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have expressed the compelling need for a more comprehensive PCB cleanup.

Environmental advocacy organizations, including Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper, have also stated that the cleanup is incomplete.

We believe additional PCB removal and robust habitat reconstruction…will accelerate the recovery of the river and its resources, which will reduce the restoration required and facilitate the ecological and economic recovery of the Hudson River.

Kathryn Jahn, Hudson River Case Manager
U.S. Department of the Interior

New York State Sues, With Local Support

New York State filed a lawsuit against the EPA. The suit—filed by Attorney General Letitia James, the DEC, and Governor Andrew Cuomo—asserts the EPA violated federal law when, in April, despite the indication that concentrations of PCB remain dangerously high in the Hudson River, it issued a “Certificate of Completion” to GE indicating that GE’s PCB clean-up efforts were complete.

Dutchess, Ulster, Greene, and Columbia Counties are supporting the lawsuit and will file an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. Assemblymember Didi Barrett wrote a public comment urging the EPA to continue active remediation efforts in the Upper Hudson as well to investigate PCBs in the Mid and Lower Hudson. Congressman Antonio Delgado has also spoken out against the EPA decision.

Columbia County Discussion

At the September 11 Board of Supervisors Meeting, I proposed that Columbia County join the Dutchess County amicus curiae brief. While Columbia County discussed, Ulster and Greene Counties passed resolutions to join the brief. After three months of reviewing the science, history of clean up, and legal options, the Board voted unanimously to join the brief.

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