Wednesday night and Thursday morning I got ready for the conference call with EPA Region 2 Adminstrator Pete Lopez.
Based on the news that Basil Seggos, state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, said the EPA was going to issue General Electric a certificate of completion for the Hudson River Superfund cleanup, I thought I knew what we would hear Thursday morning.
Just before the conference call started, the EPA emailed out its release.
It said two things: 1. It was deferring its decision on whether the cleanup worked and needed more fish tissue data and 2. It was issuing a certificate of completion to GE for completing the cleanup.
A number of questions cropped up like, how can you say someone completed a cleanup when you're not sure the cleanup worked? EPA said they're two separate actions.
On the conference call things got even more confusing when Lopez said the EPA could potentially have GE open up another temporary dewatering site and dredge some more.
But, the certificate was being awarded because technically, the EPA said, GE fulfilled its to-do list.
Lopez continued to say how misinformation has spread that the certificate meant the cleanup worked, but right after the call, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state was going to sue.
There are plenty of people out there who do think the two are related, including the governor.
Back in 2017, two other federal agencies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Interior, recommended to the EPA that it first makes sure the dredging worked before issuing the certificate of completion.
On the Hudson River Trustees' Natural Resource Damage Assessment page on the Department of Interior's site there's a tab called, "FAQ/Correcting Misinformation." The first question is, "Does the Hudson River 'clean itself' of PCBs?"
Plenty of politicians have spoken out since, worried that if the dredging is deemed complete that it could be more difficult to compel GE to do any more remediation work if PCB levels don't continue to decline, and don't decline at the benchmark rates they were expected to do.
EPA has said GE is still carrying out "an extensive Operation, Maintenance and Monitoring Program," but if the Hudson River can't clean itself, what to do about the remaining PCBs?
Do you ask GE to dredge again after telling it it's done? Do you ask another community to set up a temporary dewatering facility and deal with the potential tax assessment fiasco that Fort Edward is dealing with now?
I guess the fish will tell us in the next eight years.