For a 30-year period, General Electric used the Hudson River as a dumping ground for harmful Polychlorinated biphenyls, known as PCBs. From 1947 to 1977, more than a million pounds was dumped from its facilities at Hudson Falls. The company with the slogan, “We bring good things to life,” produced the material for insulation and fire prevention for its many electrical devices.
Whether or not GE was ignorant of the harm it was creating, nothing good was going into the Hudson. As a result, the length of the Hudson River, from Hudson Falls to New York City, all 200-miles of it, is considered the largest superfund in our country.
General Electric spent six years dredging the Hudson to remove PCBs. The Environmental Protection Agency had predicted in 2002 that such an effort would clean the river enough to relax fishing restrictions within 10 years. Today, most people would not dare eat the fish that still live in the river.
As the years tick by, we learn that the technology that has provided us a simple way of living has produced harmful by-products. The trade-off, in cases like Love Canal, the Hudson River and Hoosick Falls, is not fair. Nature doesn’t have a way to combat against the garbage left behind. Wildlife die off. Innocent people face sickness and death, most of whom were only guilty of living there.
In May, the EPA assessed that dredging is not producing the results it had initially predicted 15 years ago, and that continued efforts to do so may take more than 50 years to reach those goals. Even then, it won’t completely rid the river of PCBs. Because of this assessment, the agency appears to be taking steps to wash their hands of the situation all together. New York says that’s a load of garbage.
For 30 years, GE used the river as a dumping ground. It has spent one-fifth of that time cleaning it up, and everyone but New York residents want to walk away from it. Because they can. Because they don’t have to live with the problem. Just after one-fifth of the time it took to pollute 200 miles of the Hudson River with PCBs, the federal agency created to protect our environment — it’s in the name — wants to give up.
We think 30 years would only be fair enough to keep trying.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.