Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications

For Release — June 20, 2000


ALBANY—Calling the proposed dredging of the Hudson River "the wrong solution to the wrong problem," The Business Council has urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to reverse its 16-year-old decision against dredging to remove PCBs.

Dredging the river would disrupt recreational and economic activity on a 40-mile stretch of the river and would cause massive new ecological damage to the river, Business Council President Daniel B. Walsh said in a June 14 letter to Carol Browner, EPA administrator. (To view the text of the letter, click here.)

Moreover, "this massive disruption would be a grossly, even irrationally disproportionate assault on a 'threat' that seems to us to have been mischaracterized and exaggerated—one that is already being addressed with effective, much less risky strategies," Walsh wrote.

The EPA is scheduled to make a preliminary decision in December on how to proceed with its Hudson River cleanup. A final ruling will come in June 2001. To date, some 70 villages, towns, and citizens' groups have said they oppose dredging.

Exactly how the dredging would unfold, and at what cost, is not known "because there have been no successful prior models for a project on this scale," Walsh said.

"But it seems clear that a dredging operation big enough to remove the PCBs under the riverbed would take 10 years or more," he added. "For all that time, the scenic beauty, water quality, and recreational use of a 40-mile stretch along the upper river would be severely disrupted."

There would be high costs on land as well. Major investments would be needed to move, receive, de-water, decontaminate, and ship the dredged material, Walsh said.

And the big question of where all the dredged material would go has not been resolved. The community investment needed to handle this material is huge—"yet even far smaller such facilities are almost impossible to develop and get approved," he added.

This huge investment is being considered without any convincing evidence of a health threat from the PCBs to be dredged, Walsh added.

"EPA itself has acknowledged that the river is safe to swim in, to boat in, to drink," Walsh wrote. He cited a report from the American Council on Science and Health which found no scientific evidence of a public health threat from the kinds of trace levels of environmental PCBs found in the Hudson.

Walsh noted that the natural processes of bioegradation, dechlorination and especially sedimentation are already reducing PCB levels in water.

"Yet sedimentation would be stopped dead in its tracks (indeed, it would be reversed) by dredging," Walsh wrote.

General Electric and the state Department of Environmental Conservation have been working for a decade to clean on-shore deposits, and GE's investment of $165 million in this process has been successful, he said.

"To us, it makes much more sense to encourage and facilitate that clean-up process than to launch a dredging effort that would create more problems than it could possibly solve," he wrote.

Walsh urged the EPA to base its decision on sound science and not a misguided pursuit of vengeance.

"There are voices in our society whose approach to these matters seems to be motivated more by vengefulness than by sound science—and these voices are calling upon you to order dredging, regardless of the cost or consequences," Walsh said. "To them, big corporations like GE are evil polluters, who must be punished.

"We do not believe that EPA will make a decision based on vengefulness. We believe that the EPA will make the decision that is driven by sound science, and by the facts at hand—and reject dredging."

To view the text of the letter, click here.