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Excessive PCBs in the Hudson River: Attributable to Incompleteness of Dredging, or to Seven Years of Dredging?

Hudson River dredge showing bucket suspended beneath superstructure.

By Robert A. Michaels and Uriel M. Oko

Introduction
GE (the General Electric Company) recently completed a seven-year US EPA mandated clamshell dredging project to remediate PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) contamination of the Hudson River. Post-project PCB levels in water and fish, however, are higher than anticipated, for example in 2016 requiring the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH 2016) to recommend further restriction of fish consumption. NYS DOH issued a “Don’t Eat” fish consumption advisory for walleye fish taken from the Hudson River downriver, between the Rip Van Winkle Bridge at Catskill and the Tappan Zee Bridge. This advisory is more stringent than the previous advisory, which recommended limiting intake of walleye to one meal per month. The current advisory was based upon new data showing elevated levels of PCBs in these fish.

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