To Dredge or Not To Dredge
by Thomas Siciliano Jr.
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association March 2000 Newsletter)
That appears to be the question and the battle lines are drawn. GE obviously feels the answer is no. They have a huge financial stake to protect and they have and will continue to spend a lot of money to defend that position. On the other side are environmentalists, conservationists and fishermen who want the environment cleaned up at any cost.
On January 31st I attended a public meeting at The New School in New York City for JCAA.The 400 plus people in attendance were there to learn about the EPAs proposed plan to clean up the PCB contamination in the Upper Hudson River and to state their positions publicly.
>I must congratulate the EPA for putting a very comprehensive plan together. The EPA evaluated 5 possible alternatives ranging from no action to dredging up to 3.82 million cubic yards of sediment estimated to contain more than 155,000 pounds of PCBs at a cost of $570 million. That comes to a cost of $3700 per pound of PCBs removed.
The EPA preferred remedy recommends the targeted dredging of approximately 2.65 million cubic yards of the most contaminated sediment. The cost would be $460 million. This would remove approximately 100,000 pounds of PCBs. That seems like and is a lot of money and one could argue if it is fiscally responsible to spend that amount of money with no guarantees that things will be improved. However what is the cost to future generations if no attempt is made to clean up the river?
It is estimated that the total quantity of PCBs discharged from the two plants into the river from the 1940s to 1977 range from 209,000 to 1,330,000 pounds. Dredging in 1974 and 1975 removed approximately 634,000 cubic yards of sediment.
The current EPA plan would reduce the amount of PCBs coming over the Troy dam from 500# to 300# per year. The remedial design would take three years and dredging would start in 2004 and take at least 5 years to complete. In addition there are still 3 oz per day of PCBs seeping from the GE plants at Fort Edwards and Hudson Falls into the river and 1 ½# per day coming out of the Thompson Island Pool. The plan is predicted to limit re-suspension to less than 21#s per year.
The protection of the striped bass nursery grounds is probably my main reason for supporting the EPA.Consider that there is a health advisory in effect warning that fish caught in the Hudson should not be eaten or should be consumedonly in limited quantities. The striped bass that are spawned in the Hudson range from as far south as North Carolina to as far north as Maine. Then consider that the fish you catch at Montauk or in Raritan Bay was probably in the Hudson only a few weeks earlier. How can it now be safe to eat just because it has moved a few miles?
One more point on the cost of this project. We must realize that we all will pay for this cleanup. Yes, GE will get the bill and they will pay for the clean up out of their operating profit. However, do not think for a minute that they will not pass that cost on to their customers. You can say I wont buy anything GE makes, but if it is not you personally it will be their other customers. As a society we must recognize that the cost of environmental clean up is everyones responsibility. We learn more and more every day and those things we thought were safe yesterday are not today. Most of us work for the very same companies that are being asked to clean things up. Therefore we must recognize that it is society which is responsible for all environmental cleanup and we must be willing to pay our share. If you are not willing to pay you should not ask anyone else to pay for you. Ask someone who has just lost his job because a company is no longer able to be financially viable if the cleanup was worth it.
I have stated some political philosophy and evaluated the environmental and societal impact of a cleanup. My conclusion is that the JCAA should support the EPA in doing the right thing for the environment. We have until April 17 to solidify our position and file public comment.