Harper’s has a new article on that old, pesky-for-General Electric, case of their having pumped PCBs in to the Hudson River for many years, entitled The General Electric Superfraud:  Why the Hudson River will never run clean (December 2009).

Riverkeeper.org has a basic summary (here) of what transpired:

Between 1947 and 1977, General Electric (GE) dumped an estimated 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River. The source of the PCB discharges was two GE capacitor manufacturing plants located in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, New York, about 50 miles north of Albany. GE’s PCBs are now found in sediment, water and wildlife throughout the Hudson River ecosystem as far south as the New York Harbor. They are also found in people.

It’s really hard to believe that GE continued with this practice well into the 1970′s, long after the dangers were recognized.

The saga, ultimately leading toward dredging and removal of some of the sediments contaminated with PCBs,  is detailed in an EPA timeline here. Riverkeeper.org has more on what is happening now:

On May 15, 2009, GE began Phase 1 of the long-delayed clean-up of those PCBs. Phase 1 dredging is scheduled to run for approximately 6 months in the upper Hudson and remove only 10% of the PCBs slated to be removed. Phase 2 will remove the remaining targeted contaminants and operate for several years.

GE has not committed to performing the full scope of the dredging remediation, in particular the Phase 2 dredging. At the conclusion of Phase 1, various reports and evaluations will occur, with opportunity for public involvement. Pursuant to the agreement between GE and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a 2006 Consent Decree: GE will then announce whether it intends to perform Phase 2.

Riverkeeper will continue its work to see that the full clean-up occurs.

I’ll need to find the full Harper’s article and report back.  It seems they have reasons to believe that full clean-up is not achievable. Given how difficult it is to remove sediments, it seems likely they are correct.