Ulster, Dutchess join legal effort against EPA over Hudson River PCBs

Local officials not satisfied with the EPA's declaration the cleanup is finished

POUGHKEEPSIE – Hudson Valley leaders gathered on the Walkway Over the Hudson on Tuesday to express their dissatisfaction with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s certification of completion of PCB cleanup in the Hudson River.

Officials in Ulster and Dutchess counties said they will be filing court documents in support of the New York State lawsuit against the EPA.  Attorney General Letitia James filed the suit on behalf of the state.

“GE and the EPA are either in denial or simply don’t care how dangerous the PCBs in the Hudson River truly are, and the threat they pose to public health,” said James.  The Attorney General, along with Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro and his Ulster County colleague, County Executive Patrick Ryan, are challenging the EPA’s decision.

“To pronounce GE’s cleanup of PCBs ‘complete’ when Hudson River fish are still too poisonous to consume puts the health of New Yorkers at extreme risk,” James said.  “My office will continue to push back against this fraudulent certificate of completion.”

Ryan and Molinaro were joined on the Walkway by elected officials representing the Hudson 7.  Gary Bassett, mayor of the Village of Rhinebeck and chairman of the Hudson 7, a consortium of municipalities that draw drinking water from the Hudson River, denounced the EPA decision.

“Nothing short of a full cleanup of PCBs from the Hudson River is acceptable,” said Bassett.  “We support Dutchess and Ulster County, and New York State in their efforts to hold the EPA and General Electric accountable.  We stand shoulder-to-shoulder in this fight. The EPA ruling for people living along the Hudson has to do with eating of fish from the Hudson, which at one time was an industry and a way of living.”

The Town of Esopus is a member of the Hudson 7 and Town Supervisor Shannon Harris was critical of the EPA’s decision noting that signs are still being posted along the Hudson River warning against the eating of fish caught in the river.

“Their job as the environmental protection agency is to protect communities like ours on the federal level from allowing multi-national corporations to get away with long-term polluting and leaving their waste in the river for families and communities who depend on the drinking water, to consume,” Harris said. “General Electric fought for decades to avoid cleaning up 1.3 million pounds of PCB pollutants that have contaminated the Hudson River.  The EPA’s willingness to side with corporate interests over community health and safety cannot stand.” The supervisor noted that 100,000 people living throughout Ulster and Dutchess counties rely on the river for safe, clean drinking water and the EPA’s decision jeopardizes that safety.

Ryan recalled that the Hudson Valley is the birthplace of the modern-day environmental movement when the region was being considered for the placement of a Con-Edison power plant on Storm King Mountain in Cornwall.

“The fight to protect our Hudson River started the modern environmental movement,” said Ryan.  “Today we are coming together as two counties to continue that fight.  We can’t let General Electric off the hook for the mess they made of our precious Hudson River. He also called for additional work, saying “We must hold the EPA and GE accountable; anything short of complete remediation of the damage they caused is unacceptable.”

Molinaro added that “The Hudson River is among the most culturally, economically, historically, socially, and ecologically significant waterways in the world.”  Of the two counties working together in support of the state’s lawsuit, Molinaro said, “For generations, communities on both sides of the river have relied on it for drinking water, fishing, recreation, tourism, and commerce.  Our communities have proudly shared the responsibility to care, advocate, and fight for this piece of our home and our way of life.  Today, we are once again coming together and vowing to take every step we can to hold the EPA and polluters accountable.”



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