ALBANY, N.Y. (AP)—The Environmental Protection Agency declined to compel General Electric to restart dredging in the Hudson River, despite calls from New York officials and environmentalists who say contaminant levels from its industrial pollution remain too high.
EPA Regional Administrator Peter Lopez said more time and testing are needed to fully assess GE’s $1.7 billion cleanup. Lopez spoke as the federal agency issued a certificate to Boston-based GE that it completed its remedial action under the federal Superfund program. Critics had asked the EPA to withhold the certificate and to demand further dredging, citing measurements of polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCB, in the river and its fish.
But Lopez stressed that GE can still be compelled in the coming decades to do more work, including additional dredging.
“GE is not off the hook, Lopez told reporters during a conference call. “If new information comes in that causes EPA to conclude that more work is needed to protect public health and the environment, we can and will require GE to take that action.”
GE, which spilled and discharged tons of PCBs from its factories north of Albany decades ago, completed removal of 2.75 million cubic yards (2.1 million cubic meters) of contaminated river sediment in 2015.
The EPA said in a “five-year review” of the river released Friday that there is not enough testing data on fish, water and sediment yet to determine if the cleanup will succeed in its goal of protecting human health and the environment. Lopez said that would take more time.
The review found some signs of progress in removing highly contaminated sediment, though it found three spots in the upper river with slightly elevated levels of PCBs.
GE said the EPA’s decision confirms the success of the project.
“GE will continue to collect environmental data to assess ongoing improvements in river conditions and to work closely with EPA, New York State, and local communities on other Hudson environmental projects,” the company said in a prepared statement.