PCB-Polychlorinated Biphenyls was a commonly used material in most industrial processes in the early 20th century until it was banned by the federal government in 1977. These materials have been known to cause cancer, reproductive, and developmental disorders when ingested by human beings. Cases of pollution in the Hudson River provide examples of a dispute arising between environmentalist and public utility corporations.
In the early 60s, the Consolidated Edison Company, a power generating plant that supplies power to the New York City was confronted by stiff oppositions from environmental groups. The Company had started constructing new power generating plants along the River Hudson. The environmental groups criticized the move as they argued that the power plants were harming aquatic life as well as causing aesthetic damage to the less developed areas of Hudson (Weisbrod, Handler and Komesor, 1978).
Environmental groups filed law suits in attempt to stop the plans by the company to build a pumped storage facility in the region. The environmental groups actions were intensified when Con Edison begun a project to build a nuclear plant at Indian point (Weisbrod, Handler, and Komesor, 1978). Some of them, solely concerned with aquatic life, asked the firm to minimize its environmental pollution. They succeeded to a significant degree.
The environmental groups concerned with the nuclear energy production required the firm to close down but did not succeed. This failure led to the need for environmental groups to integrate and fight for a common purpose which was environmental preservation. Their efforts were further promoted by passage of the national environmental policy act of 1969 that saw most of the barriers that hindered effective advocacy of environmental interests significantly diminished.
From 1947-1977, a company known as General Electric dumped PCB into Hudson river and for years it fought against every attempt to clean up the river with every possible mechanism at their disposal. This included misinforming the public that dredging the river as a means to remove the PCBs would only stir up the toxic materials causing further damage (Natural resource defense council 2007).
By 2002, General Electric had dumped approximately 1.3 million pounds of the toxic PCB in Hudson River (NRDC, 2010). Presently, it is believed that traces of PCBs from GE’s Hudson fall plants are still leaking into the river. The company is responsible for the pollution it has caused under the Super fund law.
General Electric was ordered to create a plan to remove the toxic materials from the river by EPA- environmental protection agency. This provided a glimpse of hope as the concerns of the local people appeared to have triumphed over corporate interests. The fight to remove toxic PCB materials from the Hudson River had been taken over by modern institutions.
This however lasted for only a short time as the project by EPA was blurred with uncertainties. EPA and GE made a settlement that allowed GE to back out after the first phase of cleaning having removed only about 10% of the PCB materials from the river (NRDC, 2010). This attracted a lot of criticisms from the environmental movements.
Natural resource defense council, quickly responded to the move and through the freedom information act, they obtained the detailed information bases of the move consequently filing a case against EPA.
Despite this controversy, the EPA-GE agreement was signed off in 2006 under the influence of top federal officials (Natural resource defense council, 2007). Although GE has begun preparatory plans for cleaning, it continues to look for loopholes to sue EPA over its authority requiring the company to proceed with the phase 2 of the cleaning.
This would impose a heavy burden to the American tax payer who will have to foot the bill to clean up the mess that was created by GE (Natural resource defense council, 2007). NRDC and its partners however continue to monitor the situation and are prepared to take all the necessary steps required to ensure that GE takes full responsibility for the clean up.
Other organizations that are commonly known for their participation in the Hudson River preservation include the Hudson River Sloop clear water. The organization mission is to inspire, educate, and activate the environmentalists of tomorrow (Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, 2010). The organization started its activities in 1969 and on that year launched a 106 foot heritage vessel to transmit environmental message along the Hudson River.
River keeper environmental organization also participates in issues concerned with Hudson River. Its core mission is ecological integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries. Scenic Hudson organization aims to protect and restore river Hudson landscape as a national heritage and a great tourist attraction (Hudson River sloop clear water, 2010). They are known for saving the mount Storm King Mountain from destruction by Consolidated Edison Company.
When the analysis of the first phase cleaning up was conducted by EPA; the environmental groups submitted their reports and proposed several technical adjustments to ensure they achieve the goal in the next phase of cleaning up. These included banning decantation of water from the dredge bucket which allows the flow of PCB back to the river and using alternative dredging mechanisms to minimize the quantities of sediments stirred up in the water column.
They also suggested the addition of a surface absorbent mat to contaminated booms, enhanced capacity to unload barges carrying dredged sediment and advocated for additional core sampling in order to more effectively assess the extent of contamination (Hudson River sloop clear water, 2010).
The president of Scenic Hudson suggested that public war of words and competing theories of completion of clean up would not help them successfully achieve their purpose. Instead, the environmental groups needed to come up with a consensus that ensured compliance with USEPA 2002 record decision of completion (River Sloop Clear Water, 2010).
Cleaning up PCB from the river is beneficial since it will not only improve the health standards of the people but will also provide expanded economic opportunities to the people living along the River. The government and the general public should therefore work together with the Environmental groups to ensure that the company takes full responsibility for its actions.
Hudson River Sloop water. (2010). Environmental Groups to EPA: Reasonable adjustments will ensure PCB Clean up success. Retrieved October 9, 2010 from http://www.clearwater.org/press-releases/environmental-groups-to-epa-reasonable-adjustments-will-ensure-pcb-cleanup-success/.
Natural resources defense council. (2010). Historic Hudson River clean-up to begin after years of delay, But will general Electric finish the job? Retrieved October 9, 2010 from http://www.nrdc.org/water/pollution/hhudson.asp
Weisbrod, B. A, Handler, J. F. & Komesor, N. K. (1978). Public interest law: An economic and institutional analysis. California: University of California Press