Archive for April, 2019


The EPA Thinks So. New York State’s DEC Says No Way.

Published on Apr 22, 2019 3:09PM EDT

Lissa Harris

Few environmental cleanup efforts in US history have been as extensive—or as emotional—as General Electric’s years-long, $1.7 billion dredging project on the Hudson River to remove millions of pounds of PCBs dumped between the 1940s and ’70s.

Last week, that project hit a major milestone—or a major roadblock, depending on your perspective. On April 11, the federal Environmental Protection Agency issued a Certificate of Completion to GE for the dredging conducted so far. The certificate was a major victory for GE; the company promptly gave a statement announcing that the dredging had been a success. For New York State, whose own Department of Environmental Conservation holds that the river is still unacceptably contaminated, the EPA’s decision was a slap in the face.

The EPA plans to study the impact of the cleanup effort on the river and its wildlife. Agency officials say that GE could still be compelled to dredge more, or take other actions, if further research shows the cleanup has failed to achieve results. That’s not enough for Gov. Andrew Cuomo or Attorney General Letitia James, who announced within hours of the EPA’s decision that they intend to sue the federal agency.

Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson, the environmental groups that have long been at the forefront of the effort to restore the Hudson River, were also quick to condemn the EPA’s action. In a statement issued about the decision, Riverkeeper explains how the granting of the certificate will make it legally more difficult to compel GE to do more cleanup in future:

Issuing this certificate triggers a “covenant not to sue,” which will severely limit the EPA’s ability to compel GE to conduct additional cleanup action. Therefore, even if the EPA finds after evaluating several additional years of data that the goals of the cleanup will not be met—and that remaining PCBs continue to harm communities and wildlife—it will be more difficult for the EPA to hold GE accountable. In fact, issuing the Certificate of Completion without a fully supported finding that the remedy and the cleanup goals have been met is inconsistent with Superfund law.

Riverkeeper and the New York State DEC don’t always see eye to eye, but on the matter of the Hudson River PCB cleanup, they have been unanimous: GE’s work is not yet done.

New York isn’t the only state where federal and state officials are currently at odds over corporate pollution. Not far from the river, in Edgewater, New Jersey, residents have complained about toxic fumes released by Honeywell’s ongoing cleanup of the Quanta Superfund site. Here too, state officials appear to be taking risks to human health and the impacts of pollution more seriously than their federal counterparts.

According to a report by NorthJersey.com, the EPA has assured residents that despite the smells coming from the site, levels of naphthalene—the main chemical in mothballs—were merely a nuisance, not a danger to human health. But a recent health report issued by the state of New Jersey found otherwise: The state Department of Health has declared that naphthalene levels near the site were high enough to potentially cause harmful short-term health effects” in local residents.

River at a Crossroads

This week, American Rivers named the Hudson as one of America’s ten “Most Endangered Rivers of 2019.” Each year since 1984, the organization has published their Endangered Rivers report, which aims a spotlight on regions where looming critical policy decisions threaten a river and the natural and human communities that surround it. The Hudson River last appeared on the list in 2001, when the GE dredging project was being weighed as a solution to PCB contamination.

The key decision that landed the Hudson on the list for 2019 is an Army Corps of Engineers proposal to build a massive storm surge barrier separating the river and its tidal estuary, New York Harbor, from the Atlantic Ocean. The proposal is one of a number of alternatives currently being evaluated by the corps to deal with the accumulating impacts of climate change and sea level rise on New York City and the surrounding region.

Conservationists are deeply alarmed by the proposal, which would restrict the tidal flow of the river, partially blocking the movement of both water and marine life. In a statement released on Tuesday, Riverkeeper roundly condemned the proposal:

“For the Hudson, the stakes in this decision cannot be overstated. These storm barriers pose a truly existential threat to the Hudson. We cannot–must not–allow these barriers to be built. The twice-daily tides are the essential respiration and the heartbeat of this living ecosystem. The mouth of the river must remain open and unrestricted, as it has been for millennia,” said John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain and Vice President of Advocacy. “The Hudson has never faced a threat even close to this magnitude.”

In a 2018 article about the storm barrier proposal, The Hudson Independent discussed a similar structure that was built in the 1980s, the Eastern Scheldt Barrier in Holland—to the detriment of the river’s tidal estuary, conservationists say. Communities outside the proposed Hudson River barrier’s zone of protection are also worried:

New York State As­sem­bly­man Steven Otis wor­ries about what will hap­pen when the bar­ri­ers close. His con­stituents, in­clud­ing Ma­maro­neck, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Rye and oth­ers, are out­side the wall. “Where will the wa­ter go?” he asked. “To the Sound Shore com­mu­ni­ties.”

The corps has held a series of public hearings in New York and New Jersey to discuss the storm surge protection proposals. The Brooklyn Eagle has more on the timeline of decision making on the proposal, which will not be complete until at least 2022.

For more background on the efforts to clean up PCBs in the Hudson River, see our January story, “Cleaning Up The Hudson.”

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Governor Cuomo Issues Earth Day Proclamation Declaring April 22, 2019, as Earth Day in New York State

Weeklong Celebration of Earth Day with DEC Regional Family-Friendly Events

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is commemorating the 49th anniversary of Earth Day with DEC-sponsored and partner events around the state from April 20 through 28. These family-friendly activities include opportunities for New Yorkers to connect with nature by hiking, observing wildlife, planting trees, and learning about the importance of protecting the environment.

“Earth Day is a perfect reminder to get outside and appreciate New York’s natural resources and to ensure that we’re all doing our part to protect and preserve our environment,” said Commissioner Basil Seggos. “I encourage all New Yorkers to participate in some of the state’s week-long activities and learn more about the programs DEC’s environmental education centers have to offer across the state.”

           Governor Cuomo’s 2019 Earth Day Proclamation celebrating New York’s environmental leadership is attached. Earth Day was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin in 1970, after he toured the devastation of the massive 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. On April 22, 1970, demonstrations by an estimated 20 million Americans advocated for a healthy, sustainable environment. Later that same year, DEC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were established and the Clean Air Act was enacted, providing the authority for federal and state governments to limit emissions. In 1972, sweeping amendments were made to the federal Water Pollution Control Act, predecessor to the Clean Water Act. The Endangered Species Act became law in 1973.

For more information about Earth Day, including a full, detailed listing of this year’s regional family-friendly events and “50 At Home Earth Day Tips,” visit the DEC website.  Additional announcements will be made during New York’s weeklong celebration of Earth Day.

Highlighted DEC Community Earth Week 2019 Events include:

Long Island, Region 1

Monday, April 22, 6 – 9 p.m.: DEC Partner Event: Long Beach Latino Civic Association Earth Week Kickoff Event
Long Beach Library, 111 West Park Avenue, Long Beach
Event/launch party for the civic association’s DEC-funded coastal improvement project. The auditorium will show the film “Bag It” with Spanish subtitles, plus food vendors and other local conservation groups and family friendly environmental giveaways.

Saturday, April 27, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.: Eco-Carnival at Suffolk County Environmental Center
Seatuck Environmental Association, 550 South Bay Ave., Islip
For more information call 631-581-6908 or visit Seatuck Environmental Association’s website.

Join DEC environmental educators and other environmental groups for the 10th Annual Eco-Carnival at the Suffolk County Environmental Center. The event features a series of hands-on nature stations, nature-inspired arts and crafts, games and booths, music, food, and ice cream. It’s eco-friendly, nature-based fun for whole family. The event is sponsored by the Seatuck Environmental Association in cooperation with Suffolk County and the town of Islip.

New York City, Region 2

Saturday, April 20, 1 – 3 p.m.
Earth Day Festival at Gantry Plaza State Park, Rainbow Park Playground:
4-09 47th Road, Long Island City
DEC educators will lead a water conservation activity with youth and families at this event organized by New York State Parks.

Thursday, April 25, 11:30 a.m.
Earth Day Celebration, 47-40 21st Street, Long Island City (in courtyard):
DEC in partnership with the State Department of Transportation will host an Earth Day celebration in the courtyard of the regional office. There will be a tree seedling giveaway, a composting demonstration, and hands-on activities facilitated by DEC educators.

Hudson Valley, Region 3

Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center, 79 Farmstead Lane, Wappingers Falls
For more information, call 845-831-3800, email foundation@stonykill.org, or visit DEC’s Stony Kill Farm webpage.

April 20 and 21, 27 and 29, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Open Barn
Stony Kill Farm maintains a working farm housing chickens, cows, pigs, and sheep. Visit with the farm animals and find out about their care from the volunteer Livestock Caretakers.

April 20, 21, 27, and 29, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Open Greenhouse
Learn about the life cycle of a plant during your visit to the greenhouse. Visitors can touch and, in some instances, taste what is being grown in the greenhouse.

Saturday, April 27, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
DEC Partner Event: Drop- In at the Drive-In National Parks Service Earth Day Celebration:
Recycling and earth day activities for all ages at the Hyde Park Drive-In Theater.

Capital District, Region 4

Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, 56 Game Farm Road, Delmar
For more information call 518-475-0291, e-mail 5Rivers@dec.ny.gov, or visit DEC’s Five Rivers Environmental Education Center webpage.

Visitor center hours: Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Five Rivers Scavenger Hunt
Stop in at the visitor center and pick up a scavenger hunt before heading out to walk the trails at Five Rivers. Visitors are encouraged to bring their imagination and observation skills, because this scavenger hunt is not about collecting things. Instead, it’s all about completing a list of activities, from gazing at clouds, to touching the earth, to taking a closer look at insects.

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday April 22, 24, and 26, from 2 – 4 p.m. each day
EarthQuest!
DEC’s Office of Climate Change to play EarthQuest, a role-play game focused on climate change and sustainability. Appropriate for middle and high school students, the game will challenge players to think creatively about solutions for environmental problems. This version of the game will be set in New York State’s Capital District and the Upper Hudson River Estuary. Space is limited. Call Five Rivers at 518-475-0291 to register, and organize friends and bring a group.

Monday, April 22, 1 – 3 p.m.
DEC partner event: Troy Earth Day Cleanup, 594 River St, Troy
A multi-location event to help clean-up the North Central and Hill Side neighborhoods of Troy. Visit City of Troy’s Earth Day website for more information.

Tuesday, April 23, 9:30 a.m.: DEC Fish Stocking at Six Mile Water Works
Six Mile Waterworks located off Fuller Road between Washington and Central Avenues
Join DEC’s Bureau of Fisheries and Bureau of Environmental Education staff as they stock Rensselaer Lake in Albany’s Pine Bush with approximately 2,000 rainbow trout.

Friday, April 26th (Arbor Day) 11 a.m. -12:30 p.m.
Partnership with Albany Goes Green (AGG),10th Anniversary of Arbor Day tree plantings: Tree Planting at Stephen and Harriet Myers House: 194 Livingston Avenue, Albany
DEC environmental educators and foresters will join St. Rose college students and the new City of Albany forester, Jay LaVigne, to help community members plant trees and take part in family-friendly activities.

Friday, April 26 – Sunday, April 28, various locations
DEC partner event: Canal Clean Sweep
Each Earth Day, the New York State Canal Corporation and Parks & Trails New York host Canal Clean Sweep, a day of spring cleaning in public areas throughout the Canal corridor. Visit the Canal Clean Sweep website for more information.

Saturday, April 27, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
DEC partner event: Earth Day in the Pine Bush: Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center, 195 New Karner Road, Albany
A variety of activities suitable for all ages will be taking place. All equipment will be provided. Meet at the Discovery Center. Pre-registration is required. For more information, visit Albany Pine Bush’s website.

Central New York, Region 7


Rogers Environmental Education Center, 2721 State Route 80, Sherburne
For more information call 607-674-4733, email info@FriendsOfRogers.org, or visit Friends of Rogers website.

Family Fun Program: April Showers: Saturday, April 20, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Water is essential for life on earth and is all around us in many forms. Join the Rogers Environmental Education Center to go on a journey to explore water all over the globe and its various properties.

Community Read and Discussion: Monday, April 22, 6 – 8 p.m.
Discuss Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Prodigal Summer with a focus on its environmental themes. Light refreshments will be served, books can be checked out at the Sherburne and Earlville libraries.

Storytime and Hike: Wednesday, April 24 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Join Friends of Rogers educators for songs and a story, followed by a short hike along the trails. Bring a snack or a picnic lunch to enjoy with friends.

Central New York, Region 8

Family Nature Fest: Seneca Park, 2222 St. Paul Street, Rochester: Saturday, April 27, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Participate in nature walks, make observations about nature for a WXXI’s Nature Challenge and the Seneca Park Zoo’s City Nature Challenge, do natural arts & crafts, and meet PBS KIDS Nature Cat!  Participants will also learn what citizen science is, how it helps inform local issues, and showing how families can participate in simple citizen science projects. Some of the activities will be outside, some will be inside, but there will be limited space indoors.  Families can go on guided nature walks with experts.  Please wear appropriate footwear like sneakers, hiking boots, or winter boots.

For more information, contact DEC’s Central Region Environmental Educator, NYSDEC Regional Headquarters, 615 Erie Blvd. West, Syracuse, NY 13204, phone: 315-426-7532

Buffalo Area, Region 9

Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve & Environmental Education Center, 93 Honorine Dr., Depew
For more information call 716-683-5959, e-mail reinsteinwoods@dec.ny.gov, or visit DEC’s Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve webpage.

Earth Day Home Energy Action Workshop: Monday, April 22, 6:30 p.m.
Celebrate Earth Day by discovering solar power programs and incentives available for your home. Explore home energy efficiency programs and learn practical tips for saving money by conserving energy. Door prizes and light refreshments provided. Registration is required, please call 716-683-5959.

Nature Tech Adventure: Nature Apps: Tuesday, April 23, 1:30 p.m.
Explore how to use your smartphone to enhance your nature experience. For children ages 8 and older. Registration required; call 716-683-5959.

Nature Tech Adventure: Geo-Caching Egg Hunt: Wednesday, April 24, 1:30 p.m. Participants will learn how to use a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit and use the handheld GPS units to find hidden eggs in the preserve. For children ages 8 and older. Registration required; call 716-683-5959.

Nature Tech Adventure: Solar Solutions: Thursday, April 25, 1:30 p.m.
Discover the fun side of science as we harness the power of the sun to bake, create art, and more!  For children ages 8 and up. Registration required; call 716-683-5959.

Citizen Science: Project Squirrel: Friday, April 26, 10:30 a.m.
Come join us on the trail as we learn how to be citizen scientists and record squirrel sightings in the preserve. Once you’ve learned, you can do at home too. For children ages 8 and older. Registration required; call 716-683-5959.

Nature Tech Adventure: Birding: Friday, April 26, 1:30 p.m.
Celebrate John James Audubon’s birthday by birding in the woods! Incorporate technology with birding and learn about eBird and the Merlin bird ID app. For children ages 8 and older. Registration required; call 716-683-5959.

 

DEC ANNOUNCES STATEN ISLAND “I LOVE MY PARK DAY”

Volunteer Cleanup Event on May 4 at Mount Loretto Unique Area

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Region 2 is seeking volunteers for the annual “I Love My Park Day” on Saturday, May 4, at the Mount Loretto Unique Area, Staten Island. I Love My Park Day is a statewide event sponsored by DEC, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and Parks & Trails New York to enhance parks, historic sites, and public lands by raising awareness and visibility of the state’s outdoor recreation assets. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced that registration is now open for I Love My Park Day and encouraged New Yorkers to sign up for cleanup events happening statewide.

Volunteer activities at Mount Loretto Unique Area begin at 10:00 a.m. on May 4, and include:

  • Project 1: Tree planting. Volunteers are asked to meet at the kiosk by the main entrance.
  • Project 2: Beach Clean-up. Volunteers are asked to meet at the Mt. Loretto Pavilion, near the beach entrance.

Work gloves will be provided for both activities, but volunteers should dress appropriately for working outdoors and wear sunscreen and insect repellant. Volunteers of all ages are welcome to participate. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Mount Loretto Unique Area is located at 6320 Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island, NY 10309.

Registration for I Love My Park Day statewide can be completed by visiting: DEC ANNOUNCES STATEN ISLAND “I LOVE MY PARK DAY”