General Electric Forced to Clean Up Hudson River

General Electric Forced to Clean Up Hudson River
reprinted from


By B.G.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rejected General Electric's efforts to stall and stymie the removal of the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that the company, for more then 30 years, had dumped into the upper Hudson River in New York State. GE had initiated a costly lobbying and advertising campaign against the dredging, saying that this activity would stir up the PCBs that are now buried in the river's bottom and thereby repollute the river. The company also asked that water contamination standards for the dredging be set at an enormously high level, well knowing that such a requirement would inevitably lead to a level that would be impossible to maintain and thus undermine and tie up the whole project.

The EPA and its administrator, Christie Whitman, would have none of these evasive tactics and have directed that GE proceed with a job that will cost the company at least $460 million over the years, and perhaps much more. The EPA will eventually, during the dredging process, set water standards, but in consultation with the communities along the river. The design phase of the project will take up to three years, during which time the proper type of dredging technology will be worked out to prevent resuspension of the PCBs.

Special plants to sift water from the dredged mud will also be a vital part of the project. What will happen to the 2.65 million cubic yards of river sediment once it is removed and where it will be temporarily stored and where its final resting place will be must also be carefully worked out.

The whole dredging process may take five years.

The estimated $460 million cost, though heavy, was not GE's only objection to the project. For the company has an estimated 83 Superfund sites in other areas of the country that would eventually also come under clean-up requirements. GE would thus be exceptionally hard hit financially if required to remove all this additional pollution. Such a burden would not only deplete the company's coffers considerably, but would drive the price of its stock down and result in the flight of many of its investors. It is the company's bottom line, its financial well-being and the enormous wealth of its leading management personnel rather than any social responsibility that is obviously of primary importance to capitalism. This verity succinctly explains General Electric's 25-year battle to avoid undoing the damage it has done to humans, to wildlife, and to earth and water by boldly polluting the environment.