The northern end of the plant site is adjacent to the Bakers Falls Dam which was built in the early 1900's to facilitate the operation of hydroelectric facilities. Along the eastern shore of the river, adjacent to and below the GE property is the abandoned Allens Mill structure. Within the old mill structure there are several different channels through which water flowed: the upper and lower raceways (which each powered turbines in the mill) and the tailrace tunnel (through which water was discharged back to the river).
Test wells have found significant levels of PCB contamination in the groundwater beneath the Hudson Falls Plant site. The ground water contamination of the site ranges from trace amounts to 90% PCBs!
It is known that large amounts of GE's PCBs are seeping through fissures in the bedrock and into the old Allens Mill structure. Some of the seeps have also tested as high as 90% PCBs. Because a significant flow of water still exists in the raceways of the old mill, the mill is acting as a gateway for the continuous flow of PCBs into the river.
Accordingly, there are now 4 main areas of contaminated sediments found adjacent to the Hudson Falls site, which can all be attributed to the site. The first area of contamination is the river itself. The PCB contamination of sediments in the river at this site was found to range from 100 - 20,000 ppm. Also, PCB levels in fish in the Upper Hudson River were found to have increased by 300% in one year, due to the releases from the Hudson Falls Plant site.
The other areas of sediment contamination were found in the raceways of the old mill. Their respective levels of contamination are as follows:
GE (under orders from the state) is trying to identify and characterize areas of contamination beneath the plant. GE is also looking for possible pathways for migration of the contamination through the site and into the Hudson River. As for the old Allens Mill site the main emphasis is for GE to evaluate the amount of PCB contaminated material in the structure.
Interim cleanup measures now planned include the digging of sump trenches in the old mill structure to drain liquids from sediments, and removal of contaminated sediments from two of the three mill raceways (the Eastern Raceway and Tailrace Tunnel). The Lower Raceway will not be cleaned at this time due to the difficulty of removing the sediments from this area.
GE's argument is a gross oversimplification of a complicated problem. It is clear that the top priority must be to stop the flow of additional PCBs into the river. Objective scientists familiar with the problem concur that both the Hudson Fails site and the contaminated sediments already in the river contribute to downriver and food chain contamination. GE's conclusion that PCBs flowing from the Hudson Falls site are recontaminating river bottom sediments strengthens the argument for a cleanup.
Write to Governor Mario Cuomo, and ask that he use the state's existing legal authority to require GE to pay for:
Write to the EPA and urge them to continue the reassessment, incorporating available information about the flow of PCBs from the Hudson Falls plant. The EPA process provides the best opportunity to develop a full scale understanding of the relative contributions that the Hudson Falls Plant and the contaminated sediments are making to the overall PCB contamination of the river. The person to write to is: Jeanne Fox, Regional Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2, Jacob K. Jayits Federal Building, New York, New York,. 10278-0012. It is also helpful to send a copy of your letter to your Congressmember.