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EPA Finalizes Dredging Performance Standards and Approves Preliminary Design for Hudson River Cleanup

Release Date: 04/20/2004
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(#04052) New York, N.Y. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released its final engineering performance standards, which were developed to ensure that the dredging of the Hudson River is done safely and on schedule. The engineering 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. EPA also approved and today released the Preliminary Design Report for the Hudson River PCBs Site. This report was prepared by General Electric Company (GE). It presents the first stage of the design for the Hudson River PCBs Superfund site cleanup.

"Substantial progress is being made on the design of the Hudson River cleanup and on establishing rigorous cleanup standards to ensure that the dredging is done in a way that protects the health of people and the environment," said EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny. "Public input on the engineering performance standards has been carefully considered, and the standards have been reviewed by an independent panel of experts."

The engineering performance standards are critical to planning and carrying out EPA's cleanup of the Hudson River, which was selected in the February 2002 Record of Decision (ROD) for the site. Dredging will be conducted in two phases. The experience and information gained during Phase 1 of the dredging (the first year of the six-year dredging program) will be made available to the public and will also be the subject of a peer review. This peer review will evaluate how well the project met the engineering performance standards during Phase 1, to assist EPA in deciding if adjustments need to 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.

    1. Resuspension Standard: This standard protects water intakes down river of the dredging operations and limits the down river transport of PCBs due to resuspension of contaminated dredged material. It sets a maximum resuspension level of 500 parts per trillion (for Total PCBs) – the EPA drinking water standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act – as well as lower action levels to identify problems and guide preventive actions and engineering improvements if these levels are exceeded.
    2. Productivity ("on-schedule") Standard: This standard is set to maintain the pace of sediment removal to meet the six-year schedule for completing the dredging project. This standard 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.
    3. Residuals Standard: This standard is set to detect and manage small amounts of contaminated sediments that may remain on the river bottom in dredged areas of 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.

On May 14, 2003, EPA released the draft engineering performance standards to the public for a 60-day review and comment period, and in October 2003 submitted the draft engineering performance standards for peer review by a panel of independent experts. Nine independent peer reviewers with various affiliations and from relevant scientific disciplines thoroughly discussed and evaluated the draft engineering performance standards in January 2004. Peer reviewers answered 15 questions that addressed the proposed resuspension, residuals, and productivity standards, as well as issues that pertain to all three standards. The draft standards were subsequently revised based on public and peer review comments.

For the resuspension standard, action levels and their associated monitoring programs were simplified and streamlined. For the productivity standard, the minimum required volume to be removed during the Phase 1 dredging has been reduced from 240,000 to 200,000 cubic yards of sediments. For the residuals standard, an attachment was added to identify the specific data quality objectives for the residuals sampling program.

Concurrent with the final engineering performance standards, EPA is also releasing its Response to Peer Review Comments. In this document, EPA either describes how the peer reviewers' comments were incorporated or provides the technical rationale for not incorporating a comment. The Response to Peer Review Comments contains a summary of the changes made to the October 2003 draft standards. The final Engineering Performance Standards and the Free PDF reader availableResponse to Peer Review Comments are both available online and on CD-ROM, which can be obtained by calling the Hudson River Field Office. They are also 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.

Preliminary Design Report: The Preliminary Design Report for the Hudson River PCBs Site includes a preliminary description of options for Phase 1 and Phase 2 dredging operations, including sediment removal and disposal. It evaluates the full spectrum of existing dredging technologies, including dredging equipment, resuspension control measures, material handling and processing, dewatering and water treatment processes, transport to disposal locations, composition of backfill and capping materials, and habitat replacement. The preliminary design also reflects commitments made in the ROD including no transport of processed sediment by truck and the disposal of dredged material outside the Hudson River Valley. The Preliminary Design Report for the Hudson River PCBs Superfund Site is also available online and on CD-ROM, which can be obtained by calling the Hudson River Field Office. It is available for review at the information repositories listed above.