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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: General Electric - Hudson Falls in Hudson Falls, New York

On this page:

  • Cleanup Status
  • Site Description
  • Contaminants at this Facility
  • Site Responsibility

Cleanup Status 

The facility stopped using PCBs in their manufacturing processes in 1977, and the plant’s use of organic solvents has also been discontinued in recent years as manufacturing has ceased at this facility. Presently, there are general and specific fish advisories for the Hudson River between Hudson Falls and New York City, and enforcement of catch-and-release-only fishing between Hudson Falls and Troy. These institutional controls are intended to prevent human exposure to PCBs.

An environmental investigation was conducted in several phases between 1993 and the present. Since 1993, GE has performed a number of interim corrective measures at the facility to reduce the amount of PCB entering the Hudson River. Actions taken include:

  • the construction of a wastewater treatment plant;
  • installation and expansion of a system to recover PCB-laden oil from the groundwater, soils and bedrock;
  • removal and capping of contaminated soils;
  • removal of PCB-contaminated sediments from the Hudson River in the vicinity of the former 002 wastewater outfall pipe, from within the Allen Mill and related raceway and tunnel systems, and from the pool in Baker's Falls;
  • the cleaning and replacement of the Sumpter Street municipal sewer; and
  • installation of groundwater and PCB-oil control systems within the Allen Mill and related structures, along the bank of and beneath the Hudson River, and on the face of Baker's Falls.

At this time, a 35-well collection system of pumps has been installed to pump groundwater for treatment and to retrieve recoverable PCB oil, and this system is very effective at preventing further deposition of PCBs into the river. It is estimated that five pounds of PCB was leaching from the site into the river daily before the groundwater system became operational, and that is reduced now to only about three ounces. Nonetheless, this remaining amount of PCB must be eliminated.

In March 2004, a Record of Decision was published that calls for the enhancement of the existing groundwater remediation system with a system of tunnels and drains that will extend under the Hudson River, increasing the hydraulic control over the groundwater so that no additional PCB can leave the Hudson Falls site. The March 2004 Record of Decision also requires more soils remediation, including demolition of some facility buildings and deposition of an engineered soil cap over the entire site. These activities will be accomplished under a new Administrative Order, which is currently being negotiated by the New York State Department of Conservation (NYSDEC) and GE. 

Site Description

This 25-acre site is within an area of residential and industrial zoning in the Village of Hudson Falls. The site is generally flat, but has a near-vertical drop to the Hudson River along its western boundary. The facility has been divided into four areas for investigative and corrective-action purposes:

  • Operating Unit (OU) #2A includes the "overburden" or soils and materials above the bedrock;
  • OU#2B is the overburden groundwater;
  • OU#2C is the bedrock above the base of Baker's Falls; and
  • OU#2D is the bedrock below the base of Baker's Falls.

The facility manufactured small industrial capacitors from 1952 until 1995. Property to the southwest of the facility is owned by the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation (NMPC), and includes the Eastern Raceway, the Allen Mill, and the old NMPC power station. Residential neighborhoods are located to the east of the facility, off Derby Street.

Contaminants at this Facility

Multiple releases (spills, leaks, and cleaning and storage procedures) have led to significant soil and groundwater contamination at the facility. Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are the primary contaminant, and volatile organic compounds are also present. In the past, PCBs have flowed directly from the site through rock fractures to the Hudson River. Discharge, prior to environmental regulations, from the former 002 wastewater outfall pipe at the facility also resulted in releases of PCBs directly to the Hudson River, which have contaminated sediments downstream.

Data indicate the site has been a major source of the PCB contamination of the Hudson River, and therefore has had a significant influence on PCB concentrations in fish. Consumption of fish is the most important route of human exposure to PCBs from the Hudson River. Interim Corrective Measures (described in the next section, ‘A Cleanup Approach’ and ‘Progress at the GE Hudson Falls Site’) have reduced the releases substantially.

Regarding vapor intrusion, PCB contamination has been found in groundwater, both in the overburden and bedrock, in surface and subsurface soils. The volatile organic compound plume moves away from the river because of the slant in the bedrock. The plume is 80 feet below grade in the bedrock, and the overburden is not contaminated, so indoor air is not likely to be a problem in residences sitting atop the plume.

About 95 percent of the site is paved, and levels of contamination found at the surface are not very high, so a trespasser exposure scenario is not considered to be likely. There is a health and safety program in place at the facility to protect the remaining workers, who are there for cleanup activities. Tests of all private wells in the area have not found contamination. EPA's 2002 Record of Decision for the 200-mile-long Superfund site calls for targeted environmental dredging in a 40-mile area of the upper Hudson. Elimination of discharges from GE's Hudson Falls and Ft. Edward facilities is necessary before dredging can begin and in order to meet the site remediation goals.

It has been determined that about three ounces daily of PCB material is still leaching from the site and entering the Hudson River, despite the operation of a groundwater remediation system. Additionally, there are significant areas of soil contamination still present on site. A Record of Decision was published in March 2004 that requires General Electric to address both of these problems, as will be described in the following section.  

Site Responsibility at this Facility

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) is the lead agency for the RCRA corrective action process at this site. The work is being performed under a 1997 Order on Consent between NYSDEC and GE, and another one issued in March of 2004.

The facility filed for Interim Status for tank storage, but submitted and received approval for certification of its tank storage closure prior to the issuance of a permit.