The $1.7 billion Superfund cleanup of the Hudson River is not protecting the public's health and the river as initially promised, New York's environmental commissioner contended Wednesday.
Commissioner Basil Seggos criticized the six-year dredging project performed by General Electric Co. in a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt released in the waning days of a crucial public comment period. Seggos was particularly scornful of an EPA assessment this summer that it could take 55 years or more before all species of fish in the river are clean enough to eat once a week.
"This is unacceptable," Pruitt wrote, echoing previous criticisms by the Cuomo administration official. "A remedy that will take generations to safeguard public health and the environment is clearly not protective."
Boston-based GE removed 2.75 million cubic yards of polychlorinated biphenyl-contaminated sediment from a 40-mile stretch of the river north of Albany under an agreement with the EPA.
The EPA released a review of the work this summer that found, based on the data so far, the cleanup will protect human health and the environment in the long term. Critics pushing for a broader cleanup have noted that a large amount of PCB-contaminated sediment remains in the river.
Seggos said the state is nearing completion of its own sampling program to measure the true extent of contamination.
An EPA spokeswoman said Wednesday the agency would consider Seggos' comments along with all the others they are receiving.
The EPA is accepting public comment on its review through Friday.
GE spokesman Mark Behan questioned New York's critical stance in an email that said PCB levels in the upper-Hudson water declined in some spots by as much as 73 percent in the first year after dredging.
"New York State approved and oversaw the dredging project and was instrumental in every major decision related to the project," Behan wrote. "Its criticism flies in the face of the most up-to-date scientific data from the river itself."