PCB Contamination of the Hudson River: A Chronology

Monsanto co. begins manufacturing PCBs.
PCB poisoning event in Yusho, Japan leads to awareness of toxic effects of PCBs.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration establishes a tolerance level of 5.0 parts per million (ppm) in fish. Ft. Edward Dam removed from upper Hudson River, causing large migration of PCBs into the lower Hudson and exposing river bank "remnant deposits".
An EPA survey shows high PCB levels in Hudson River fish.
Administrative Hearings begin between G.E. and DEC, regarding PCB discharges.
Fall 1975
NYS DEC survey confirms findings of high PCB levels in Hudson River fish.
Congress passes the Toxic substances Control Act banning the manufacture of PCBs and prohibiting all uses except in totally enclosed systems.
DEC bans all fishing in the upper Hudson from the Ft. Edward Dam to the federal dam at Albany, closes Hudson River commercial fisheries (including american eel and striped bass), and issues health advisories on fish consumption.
Administrative Hearing finds PCB contamination due to corporate abuse and regulatory failure.
"100 year flood" causes large movement of contaminated sediments from the upper Hudson into the lower river.
DEC and G.E. sign Settlement Agreement: G.E. to halt discharges of PCBs into the Hudson River from its Hudson Falls and Ft. Edward plants, G.E. to spend $1 million onin-house PCB research, G.E. and DEC both to contribute $3 million to monitor presence, level and extent of PCB contamination. State "signs off" on any further G.E. liability for clean-up costs. PCB Settlement Advisory Committee established.
Monsanto ceases all production of PCBs.
FDA proposes lowering PCB tolerance level to 2 ppm for fish.
EPA bans all discharges of PCBs into navigable waters under the Clean Water Act.
DEC announces a proposal to dredge 40 "hot spots" of contaminated sediments from the Thompson Island Pool area of the upper Hudson.
Blueback herring, alewife, Atlantic tomcod and blue crab removed from commercial fishery closure.
Section 116 - Hudson River PCB Reclamation Demonstration Project - added to the Clean Water Act. Congress appropriates $ 20 million for the project. Funds to be available until 1983.
Administrative Hearings before NYS Hazardous Waste Facility Siting Board convened on DEC's proposed hot spot dredging project, encapsulation facility at Site 10.
Siting Board grants Certificate for dredging project.
CEASE challenges Certificate; Siting Board illegally convened prior to state adopting final criteria to guide siting board decisions, Siting Board illegally overrode local zoning, DEC's siting board representative was in a position of conflict of interest.
EPA issues a Final Environmental Impact Statement on the PCB project, recommending dredging, but restricting the project to 20 hot spots due to funding limitations.
EPA Administrator Ann Gorsuch announces Record of Decision on FEIS - Sect. 116 money not available because "Superfund" money is available.
Clearwater, Scenic Hudson, NRDC, Hudson River Fishermen's Assoc. file suit against EPA to retain Sect. 116 money.
NYS DEC files suit against EPA, actions consolidated.
NYS Court of Special Term sustains CEASE claims against state, overturns Siting Board Certificate for Site 10. NYSDEC appeals decision.
EPA released updated Superfund National Priority List that included the upper Hudson River.
EPA releases draft Remedial Action Master Plan (RAMP). Dredging project does not qualify for Superfund money, Superfund may be available for remnant deposits.
Federal court judge grants indefinite extension of Sect. 116 deadlines until decision is reached on EPA lawsuit.
Settlement reached in EPA lawsuit, releases all Sect. 116 money for PCB clean-up project. DEC required to resurvey river bottom hot spots. Established deadline of May 10, 1987 for DEC to acquire necessary permits.
FDA announces new PCB tolerance level for fish of 2 ppm to be effective 8/20/84.
EPA issues a Record of Decision pursuant to the 9/83 RAMP, identifying G.E. as the responsible party, and calling for in place containment of remnant deposits -, but no action on river bottom sediments. The decision subject to reevaluation pending further action on river bottom sediments.
NYS Supreme Court Appellate Division upholds lower court decision voiding Siting Board Certificate for Site 10.
DEC closes commercial striped bass fisheries in New York Harbor and waters off western Long Island, and institutes certification and tagging program for eastern Long Island striped bass fishery.
DEC prohibits commercial and recreational taking, possession and sale of striped bass statewide.
Congress enacts Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act, establishing preference for permanent clean-up remedies, creating and funding the Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation program, an requiring EPA to revisit RODs made under previous criteria.
DEC issues a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the PCB project, and submits applications for the necessary permits and Siting Board approval for "Site G" in Ft. Edward.
Administrative Hearings on PCB project begin. Clearwater and Scenic Hudson are granted joint party status on issues related to impact of PCBs on commercial and recreational fisheries. G.E. also intervenes in opposition to project.
DEC reopens recreational striped bass fishery in Hudson River and Long Island waters. Health advisories against consumption of striped bass and other species remain in effect.
Parties to EPA lawsuit negotiate a Modified Order on Consent extending the May 10, 1987 deadline for NYS to obtain all necessary approvals until February 1, 1988.
NYS enacts amendments to the State Hazardous Waste Facility Siting Law (ECL Article 27), removing the requirement that sites be consistent with local zoning and establishing hazardous waste landfills as the least favoured waste management alternative.
G.E. expert witness testifies in administrative hearing that lab experiments have shown some biodegradation of some PCBs, but that they don't know "how significant that will eventually be in removing PCBs in the Hudson."
Parties to EPA lawsuit negotiate a Second Modified Order on Consent extending the February 1, 1988 deadline to obtain necessary permits until December 15, 1988, and extending the May 10, 1989 for issuance of a Notice to Proceed to contractors until December 15, 1989.
NYS Administrative Law Judge issues Recommended Decision and Hearing Report, finding in support of public necessity and environmental safety, and recommending issuance of Certificate and all necessary permits.
Siting Board announces decision - finding in support of public necessity, but denying Certificate on basis of unacceptability of Site G.

NYS DEC Commissioner Jorling simultaneously announces decision to rescope project, directing staff to reevaluate the use of "Site 10" and to fully evaluate possible treatment/destruction technologies as an alternative to landfilling.

NYSDEC petitions EPA to reconsider 1984 federal Superfund "No Action" decision for PCB contaminated river sediments continued unsafe levels of PCBs in Hudson River fish, new information regarding the toxicity of PCBs and EPA studies proving the effectiveness of dredging as a clean up strategy.
DEC releases Hudson River PCB Action Plan calling for dredging of 250,000 pounds of PCBs from the Hudson, relocation to a dewatering/encapsulation facility at "Site 10", and continuing evaluation of treatment/ destruction technologies, to be accomplished by 1998.
DEC and EPA jointly announce EPA decision to reconsider federal Superfund action involvement in PCB clean-up and to seek reimbursement from G.E. for all clean-up costs. EPA simultaneously withdraws Clean Water Act funds for PCB project.
EPA and GE sign consent order, directing GE to pay $10 million for in-place capping of PCB contaminated remnant deposit areas along upper Hudson River.
Governor Cuomo vetoes NYS budget language, inserted as a result of intensive G.E. lobbying, which would have halted state spending on the Hudson River PCB clean up project in FY 1990.
NYS DEC reopens limited commercial striped bass fishery on the east end of Long Island for fish 24 to 28 inches long.
EPA announces release of Hudson River PCB Reassessment Phase I Report - a comprehensive summary and evaluation of existing data.
EPA holds public hearings in Poughkeepsie and Ft. Edward on the Phase 1 report.
EPA removes GE scientist from chairmanship of EPA Science and Technical Advisory Committee for the RI/FS, in response to public concerns of possible conflict of interest.
EPA releases a Phase 1 Responsiveness Summary which addresses public comments received regarding the Phase 1 Report.
EPA releases final Phase 2 Work Plan which details data collection and analysis to be performed during Phase 2 of the Reassessment. The Work Plan includes; Geophysical Investigation, Water Column Sampling, Sediment Sampling, Contaminant Fate and Transport Analysis, Baseline Human Health Risk Assessment, Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment and Feasibility Study Analysis (to include screening of potential remedial alternatives which will be evaluated in Phase 3).
EPA promulgates an oral RFD for Aroclor 1016 (a commercial PCB mixture), which allows quantification of the non-cancer risks (i.e., birth defects, immune system impacts, neurological impacts and development disorders) related to exposure. Based on this standard, EPA estimates that the PCB exposure to individuals who eat PCB contaminated fish from the Upper Hudson River is 73 times what is considered "safe" based on non-cancer health effects.
EPA issues a revised schedule for the Superfund Reassessment:
Commercial fishermen and General Elecric reach settlement in the fishermen's class action suit against GE (Leo v. GE) wherein GE is to create a $7 million fund to compensate commercial fishermen for lost income due to PCB related fishery closures and restrictions.
Revised schedule:

Source: Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc.
Brought to the Web by the Environmental Studies Program at Rensselear (10/94).