Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) today wrote U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Judith Enck to call for a more robust, thorough and detailed 5-year review of the Hudson River PCB remediation effort. EPA, which has become the target of politically motivated budget cuts from U.S. House Republicans, recently released a plan for a 1 month review of the decades-long cleanup effort. Hinchey believes that timeframe should be lengthened to meet the standards set forth by EPA's current standards on 5-year reviews.
"It is my understanding that EPA may be considering allotting just one month to complete the 5-year review. This would be a mistake," Hinchey wrote. "Such a short time frame would undoubtedly limit what can be reviewed. In fact, EPA's own documents recommend that 'the five-year review process begin nine to twelve months before the scheduled planned completion date so that a site inspection and a comprehensive data and document review can be conducted by the five-year review team.'"
According to the EPA's own guidance, the 5-year review process should include community involvement and notification, document review, data review and analysis, site inspection, interviews and protectiveness determination. Hinchey believes a one month time frame is unrealistic for such a comprehensive review.
Hinchey also criticized recent attempts by U.S. House Republicans to slash the EPA's budget and threaten the agency's ability clean up toxic sites, like the PCB's in the Hudson. "It is shameful that the agency has been repeatedly subjected to spurious, politically motivated attacks of late," Hinchey noted. "These attacks, along with attempts by House Republicans to slash EPA's budget, not only undermine the agency's efforts to protect our air and water, they also directly undermine EPA's ability to carry out clean up efforts such as the Hudson River PCB remediation project."
For the last three decades, Hinchey has led the fight, first in Albany and later in Washington, to force General Electric to pay for and clean up the 1.3 million pounds of PCBs it dumped into the Hudson River between 1947 and 1977. Dating back to his days as Chair of the State Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee, Hinchey fought against numerous attempts to delay and narrow the clean-up process, and he worked tirelessly to make sure the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held GE responsible for the cleanup. In 2011, Hinchey visited the upper Hudson River to laud the commencement of the second and final phase of the cleanup as a critical step forward in removing PCB contamination that has plagued the Hudson River for many decades.
The full text of Hinchey's letter to Enck follows:
April 13, 2012
Ms. Judith Enck
US EPA Region 2
New York, NY 10007-1866
Dear Administrator Enck:
I am writing to express my support for a robust, thorough and detailed 5-year review of the Hudson River PCB remediation effort. As you know, this review is required by the Superfund law1 in order to evaluate the implementation and performance of a cleanup plan, such as the Hudson River dredging effort, to ensure that it protects human health and the environment. Given the importance of the Hudson PCB cleanup, it is imperative that this 5-year review is not undermined by an impractical and compressed timeframe.
As you know, for the last three decades I have been deeply engaged in the effort to require General Electric to pay for and remove the 1.3 million pounds of PCBs it dumped into the Hudson River between 1947 and 1977. I am proud to have worked closely with you on this issue for many years, and I appreciate your continued leadership on this critical cleanup. It was with great pleasure that I joined you last November to announce the commencement of the second phase of dredging the Hudson River. I know you share my resolute commitment to making sure this cleanup is as successful as possible and that all steps are taken to remove these contaminants and restore the river to its rightful and healthy condition.
It is my understanding that EPA may be considering allotting just one month to complete the 5-year review. This would be a mistake. Such a short time frame would undoubtedly limit what can be reviewed. In fact, EPA's own documents recommend that "the five-year review process begin nine to twelve months before the scheduled planned completion date so that a site inspection and a comprehensive data and document review can be conducted by the five-year review team."2
According to EPA's current guidance on 5-year reviews3, there are six components to this process:
Community involvement and notification,
Data review and analysis,
As part of this process, the guidance goes on to say that EPA should address the following key questions4:
Is the remedy functioning as intended?
Are the exposure assumptions, toxicity data, cleanup levels, and Remedial Action Objectives still valid?
Has any other information come to light that could call into question the protectiveness of the remedy?
I, like many others, continue to have concerns about the amount of contamination that may remain in the Hudson River following the current plans. That is why, as part of this review, I believe EPA should consider issues raised by the federal Natural Resource Trustees, including the option of additional dredging, which would be consistent with the Record of Decision, and examining the scope of the current dredging footprint.
Given the amount of work necessary to complete this review and the questions that EPA needs to address, I strongly urge EPA to allow more time for the 5-year review to ensure effective public participation and the necessary comprehensive analysis. This review should not cause any delays in the implementation of the current cleanup plan, as the Superfund law clearly intends.
A proper 5-year review would allow EPA, and the public, to understand what progress is being made on restoring the river. It will also ensure that the appropriate remedies are being pursued to achieve the goals set by the Record of Decision.
Restoring the Hudson River is a national priority and an example of the critically important role EPA plays in protecting public health and environment. It is shameful that the agency has been repeatedly subjected to spurious, politically motivated attacks of late. These attacks, along with attempts by House Republicans to slash EPA's budget, not only undermine the agency's efforts to protect our air and water, they also directly undermine EPA's ability to carry out clean up efforts such as the Hudson River PCB remediation project.
Please know that I will do all I can to ensure that EPA has the resources it needs to carry out its critically important mission. I am grateful for all the work you to do to protect New York and our country from harmful pollutants.
Maurice D. Hinchey