Polychlorinated Biphenyls in the Hudson River and Major Pollutants Report
Polychlorinated biphenyls are a family of chemicals regulated by the United States Environmental Agency due to their high probability of being carcinogenic to humans and other animals. PCBs can enter the human body through direct contact, ingestion, or inhalation. Among the adverse effects of exposure to PCBs include disruption of normal baby development, impairment of the thyroid gland and inducing cognitive disorders such as attention deficit disorder among other illnesses.
It was in the year 1929 when an American company by the name of Monsotano Corporation began manufacturing in their factories a yellow fluid by combining carbon and chlorine atoms. The formed fluid could not burn nor could it conduct electricity and it made it possible for other profitable electric products such as the capacitors to be produced at that time.
They named the new fluid Poly Chlorinated Biphenyl (a combination of carbon and chlorine atoms). The invested heavily in producing the product but as early as 1938, health problems associated with the fluid started emerging and being discovered. This did not deter the electric company from dropping the production level of the compound but rather even increased the use of the compound still in the wake of all these associated health complications. GEC later occupied a former paper mill at Hudson River to build ball turrets for World War II fighters.
After the 2nd World War, the United States economy began rising again, were erected everywhere and the vast production of new petroleum products promoted the much-needed fast economic growth. Hudson River was not an exception as the General electric company built more and more capacitors and the PCB fluid was more preferred. Sooner than later building codes were using PCBs transformers and no one was concerned about the safety or the health challenges that could occur in later years due to the use of the chemicals.
After years of heavy investment in the PCBs, the public pressure made the government realize the dangers its citizens were posed to and in the year 1976, the regulation of PCB production was introduced but by that time, millions of pounds of this dangerous compound were already deposited in leaky landfills. With more than a million pounds of PCB in the Hudson River and almost similar amounts under the two plants which were constructed in the river.
While the company maintains that all the discharges were legal it is noted by anonymous (n.d.) writer that;
In the basement a chamber blasted out of living bedrock of the Hudson Falls G.E. plant, workers submerged open-topped capacitors in large vats of PCBs with their bare hands, to fill them and evacuate any air.
The capacitors were covered, then removed and washed with trichloroethylene (TCE), a carcinogenic solvent. The TCE and PCB slurry built up on the floor during the course of the workday. Workers needed new shoes every couple of weeks because the mix was so corrosive.
Periodically during the day, larger amounts of TCE were sloshed onto the floor, swabbed around to dissolve the pooled PCBs, and then squeegeed into a nearby sump a rough pit also blasted out of the bedrock. (Pg 1)
By the time the company was fully covering the above situation, active PCB compounds had already been released into the environment.
The Primary Stakeholders Involved and What Their Interests Are
PCB contamination in the Hudson River is a public affair due to the increased human health risks everybody is exposed to. For example, from ingestion of water organisms such as the fish, increased ecological risks to fish and fish-eating organisms, and the resulting losses due to the pollution of the river which continues to cause economic losses. Thus, we can indicate that the major stakeholders of River Hudson are the government, the American citizens who use river Hudson in their day to day activities be it in farming, transport or fishing and finally the General Electrical Corporation which released the PCB compounds in the river and thus charged with the responsibility of clearing the mess.
To the general public of the American citizen their interests are primarily based on consumption of health and pure sea animals without toxicants in their systems such as the fish and also the clean water from the Hudson river would serve the American citizens a big reprieve as the risk of PCBs accumulation in the organisms they feed on and other plants are grown using the Hudson water would not bear the risk of accumulated carcinogenic materials. Among those who use river Hudson for transport services due to their machines being exposed to corrosive materials.
The American Authorities
It is the responsibility of every government to provide a good and healthy environment to its citizens thus the American government through the EPA is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that disposition of toxic effluents to the river is not allowed as well as punishing or forcing those who dispose of these chemicals to clean the environment for a healthy and sustainable environment.
The General Electric Company
The general electric serves as the other stakeholder in the Hudson River as the company whose factory plants disposed the PCB compounds in the river and thus pressure comes from every point for them to clear the mess they deposited in river Hudson exposing many Americans to unseen healthy complications.
Actions Being Taken by the Stakeholders
The General Electric Company
The general electric company has been engaging in delaying actions, delaying the clean-up for a period of about two decades. Time has been working on its side with the company spending millions of dollars in public campaigns trying to convince everybody that the river will somehow fix itself back to the situation it used to be in before the company polluted it. The companys public relations officers have been seen attending school festivals and sportsmen groups in trying to sell its delaying tactics. The company has been suggesting that the past proposed EPA clean-up procedure would cause the clean-up of PCBs more problematic by exposing some of the buried compounds to the environment (Fosner, 2006).
The pressures from the US government through the EPA have of late made the General Electric Company remove the PCB deposits in River Hudson by use of complex underground systems which collects the PCB containing water before it can enter the river and cause more harm. The company has also acquired land on the shoreline and the authorities have also directed the company to provide clean water to the communities living around the river and also the private well owners as the groundwater could also be contaminated with the PCB compounds.
The company has also of late developed environmental projects by drilling more than 80 feet beneath the bottom of Hudson and fitting the tunnels with PCB collection equipment and their clean-up strategies have also reduced pollution of the river to very low levels. This has been under the inspection of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. In the year 2010 the company completed its phase one of the dredging processes and hopes to embark on phase two come the year 2011.
The American Citizens
The communities whose are affected by the Hudson River have embarked on watershed protection and planning processes. These include educating the communities involved about the watersheds and how they can be managed. The communities are taught how to map and define a watershed, conduct stream monitoring so as to know the health of the watershed and develop management strategies as well as define the threats and opportunities ones watersheds may be exposed to. The communities have also been working with the authorities to implement the recommendations made in the management plan with this they ensure that biodiversity is protected and climate change is adaptable. The groups are also working out how they can purchase equipment such as laptop projectors and analytical tools which can be loaned among the groups to enhance better management of the watersheds along River Hudson (Klocker & Donegan, 2008).
The United States of America Authority
Under the millennium development goals, it is the role of every government to provide its citizens with a clean and pure environment void of pollutants and other impurities and thus the same responsibility lies with the government of the United States of America. The government has been enacting legislation to help and reduce the exposure of PCB compounds to humans and other living organisms around. This has been done by implementing laws that make the main pollution suspects pay for their activities as has been happening with the General Electric Company.
How Environmental Policy Has Been Developed and Modified at Federal, State, and Local Levels About Your Issue
The US government through Environment Protection Agency has been fighting for the Hudson River to be cleaned by its major pollutants the General Electric Company. For example in the year 2002, the EPA signed with the company an agreement in which the company was required to fund and perform sediment sampling as the initial step of the river clean up. Later in the year 2003, EPA signed another agreement with the General Electric Company where the company was supposed to perform the project design work for the clean-up. The agreement demanded the company to design ways or methods in which the sediments could be removed from the river bed, disposing them in safer areas without contaminating the safer areas and later working on how they could replace the vegetation where dredging was supposed to take place.
Later in the year 2005, the Department of Justice, EPA and General Electric Company agreed to conduct the dredging. The agreement required the company to start the dredging work which it had agreed with EPA back in the year 2002. with the legal processes involved in the year 2006 a ruling by Judge David N. Hurd allowed for the clean-up to proceed and in the year 2008 monitoring and evaluation were done to ensure that all the requirements were in place to protect all water supplies from River Hudson during the dredging process. New York, Waterford and other neighboring towns were allowed to gain access needed for them to build new water lines which would be used to supply them with clean water if the clean-up process resulted in contamination of the water thus ensuring a sustainable supply of water during the period.
There have been late developments as in the year 2009, the United States Government and the General Electric Company settled for amendments of the 2006 agreement which required the clean up to be done only on certain hotspots and now the company was supposed to find extra money not only for the cleanup process but also for ensuring water supply for the above towns was free from contamination during the dredging period.
Research and Explain the Current Status of the Issue
In a press release, reports show that the levels of PCB contamination in River Hudson are far much higher than was estimated and thus as the company charged with the dredging activities, the General Electric Company should do more in the next phase of dredging expected to start in the year 2011 to reduce chances of spreading contamination of the water. Reports show that the dredging process caused a release of PCBs into the water 25 more times than expected thus the need to take caution.
The fish stock in the river Hudson is at historic lows at a very low alarming size. This situation has forced the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to close the recreation and commercial fisheries of certain species such as the American shad as it did in March this year. These fisheries were restricted in the hope that it would trigger some improvement in the reproduction of the fish stocks thus increasing the fish stock in the Hudson waters (Kahnle & Hattala, 2009).
With the changed water conditions the river has also seen the emergence of new fish species such as the northern snake land which is very aggressive competitor compared to other native fish species of the river and its population needs to be checked since it could change the present fish stock and biodiversity if not eradicated on time (Dunwell, 2010).
Reports show that pathogens are still a big problem to river Hudson thus it is not yet advisable for swimming or other recreational activities though there have been commendable improvements from the clean-up actions that have been taking place. DEC in collaboration with municipalities has been working to meet the standards of water quality in order to enhance its use.
For example, in the early 2010 Department of Environment Conservation negotiated with some of the major pathogen discharging companies e.g. with the Albany Company where new terms in which they are required to disinfect their sewage effluents before releasing them to the river is a major precondition. The sewer facilities on the river are also being upgraded and it is expected that maybe later in the summer the water could be suitable for swimming activities. However, despite the expectations, if the rains exceed the normal levels there are expected overflows and the water quality could still remain a problem even in the future.
A report released from the Contamination Assessment and reduction project shows that the upper sides of the Hudson river still have high concentrations of PCBs despite the efforts by the General Electric Company to clear the river (Dunwell, 2010). This ascertains the fact that the river is still not safe for human activities.
Resolution and how each stakeholder can be persuaded to accept the resolution
PCBs concentration in river Hudson decrease as you move down the river and since the river is in motion (dynamic) from the PBCs contaminated sediments are not found in one place rather they will continue to spread in safer areas. There is still very little evidence if any that the buried PBC sediments are carried away by the clean sediments from where they are buried and thus I would propose that filtration by the method used to clean and purify water from the PBC contamination. The method is less risky since there are no chances of higher exposure than those already inexistent and thus it would be the better method.
Instead of dredging the contaminated sediments and increasing the risk of more contamination, filtration points should be set in the PCBS hot spots and all water flowing in the river should be made to pass through the filtration center to ensure that it is clean and healthy for human use. As long as the filtration points do not allow water to pass through any other sport rather than the filtration chambers the water will remain safe both for marine and human use. To convince the water users mainly the communities living around it should not be hard as all the community wants is safe water and through filtration that is achievable.
To the authorities and the General Electric Company, the two should agree on how to share the costs involved in the filtration of the water due to the simple fact that in the long run everybody is suffering from the exposure to contaminated water and thus by leaving General electric as the sole water cleaner it may take years before Americans can use the Hudson river water comfortably and with minimal risks involved.