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State threatens suit over Hudson River dredging

Ahead of a determination by the Environmental Protection Agency, Westchester County lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, are making a stand, threatening to sue the agency if it rules that General Electric’s dredging on the Hudson River is complete.

According to a statement from county legislators last week, Cuomo and New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are ready to sue the federal government if the EPA decides to wrap up its dredging of the upper Hudson River; a section of the waterway long-polluted by the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs.

“For nearly forty years, General Electric manufacturing facilities dumped millions of pounds of hazardous PCBs directly into the Hudson,” reads the joint statement by legislators. “This contamination has impacted the health and livelihood of communities along the Hudson River ever since. Gov. Cuomo and New York state have urged the EPA to conduct a complete and thorough review to ensure our communities are protected.”

According to environmental advocacy group Hudson Riverkeeper, between 1947 to 1977 General Electric, GE, dumped more than 1.3 million pounds of cancer-causing PCBs into the Hudson River which has contaminated the waterway, wildlife, and has since been found in humans.

After decades of debate, GE was required to undergo an extensive dredging project aimed at removing the PCBs from the river which was set to be carried out in two phases and subject to two five-year reviews, the first of which was conducted in 2012.

Now, with the second five-year review set to be completed in spring 2017, according to the EPA, calls to continue dredging are heating back up.

“The Hudson River is a critical economic engine and environmental treasure and New York will not allow PCB contamination to continue wreaking havoc on this vital resource,” said Cuomo in a statement. “The data is clear: the job is not done and the EPA cannot declare that this remediation is complete. If they do, New York will take any action necessary to hold them accountable for ensuring our waterways are protected and properly restored.”

According to a letter sent by New York state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, Basil Seggos, to EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, in November, despite claims by GE that 70 percent of the PCBs have been removed from the upper Hudson, samples taken by the state show that the contamination could be three times worse than the EPA expected.

In September, GE responded to calls to continue dredging, alleging that it’s work has been completed.

“New York state played an instrumental role in every major decision related to the dredging project and approved and oversaw the work and does not dispute that GE met all of its commitments,” reads the GE statement.

In December of last year, GE filed a request for certificate of completion and the EPA will be required to respond to that request by Saturday, Dec. 23.

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