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EPA Proposes Performance Standards to Protect People's Health and the Environment During the Hudson River Cleanup

Release Date: 05/14/2003
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(#03054) New York, N.Y. Honoring a pledge for public accountability and a transparent process in the cleanup of the Hudson River, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released draft engineering performance standards that ensure that the dredging of the Hudson River will be done safely and on schedule. The performance standards regulate three aspects of the dredging along a 40-mile stretch of the Upper Hudson: dredging-related resuspension of sediments from the river bottom, residual levels of PCBs after dredging occurs, and the productivity of the dredging work.

"We have listened to the public and developed rigorous standards that will ensure that the Hudson River cleanup does not cause adverse health or environmental impacts, as we move forward with this historic project," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "The engineering performance standards provide tremendous accountability and assurances that the cleanup of the Hudson River will be done safely and done right."

The draft engineering performance standards were developed in consultation with the Natural Resource Trustees – New York State, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service – using objective environmental, scientific and technical criteria. Dredging will be conducted in two phases. Prior to the commencement of phase one, the draft engineering performance standards, which will be protective of people's health and the river environment, will be peer-reviewed by an independent, external panel to ensure that they are technically adequate, properly documented, and satisfy quality requirements. EPA will fully consider public comments on the performance standards before they are peer reviewed. The standards are critical to planning and carrying out EPA's cleanup plan for the Hudson River -- which was selected through the February 2002 Record of Decision (ROD) for the site.

The experience and information gained during phase 1 of the dredging will be made available to the public and will be the subject of a second peer review. This peer review will evaluate the project's performance in phase 1 so that necessary refinements and adjustments can be made to the operations or standards prior to the second phase of dredging.

The three performance standards will be used to measure the progress of the dredging and its effect on the river system.

    • Resuspension Standard - Through a three-pronged monitoring approach, this standard protects water intakes down river of the dredging operations and limits the down river transport of PCB-contaminated dredged material. It also sets a resuspension level of 500 parts per trillion – the EPA drinking water standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act – as well as action levels for PCBs to identify problems and guide preventive actions and engineering improvements if these levels are exceeded.
    • Productivity ("on-schedule") Standard - Designed to maintain the pace of sediment removal to meet the six-year schedule for completing the dredging operation. This standard also defines the amount of sediment to be dredged (by the end of each dredging phase and within each dredging season), and specifies both minimum and target sediment removal volumes. It also calls for monthly monitoring of sediment removal goals.
    • Residuals Standard - To detect and manage small amounts of contaminated sediments that may remain on the river bottom after dredging in the Upper Hudson. This standard evaluates whether the dredging is achieving an anticipated PCB residual of 1 part per million on an area-wide average. Sediment samples will be collected and analyzed for PCBs after dredging is completed in a given area and the results will be compared with cleanup goals and other criteria. If residual PCB contamination is found at unacceptable levels, appropriate action will be required.
The draft standards and supporting technical information are available on EPA's project Web site at and on CD-ROM, which can be obtained by calling the Hudson River Field Office. They will also be available for review at the information repositories located in Glens Falls, Ft. Edward (Hudson River Field Office), Saratoga Springs, Albany, Poughkeepsie, and New York City.

The 30-day public comment period begins on May 14 and closes on June 13. The public will have numerous opportunities to submit comments, both electronically and in print. EPA will also host two sets of public sessions on the draft engineering performance standards. Please see the attached fact sheet for details on the public comment process and the public sessions.