It Depends on What “IS” is
What “is” Echo Bay? When you talk about contaminants in Echo Bay, testing of the water doesn’t reflect shoreline or soil quality. Echo Bay, to me, IS, the water, the soil under the water, the land rambling down to the water, the marshes, flora, hundreds of species of wildlife, and the creatures that feed there. It is an ecosystem. So, is Echo Bay contaminated? You Bet! All of it, no, but the type of contamination is what needs to be defined. Everyone agrees that there will be significant clean up costs associated with developing Echo Bay. In fact, we are asked by city council to take into consideration Forest City’s investment in cleaning up ( even though most of that money would come from state funding, not Forest City). So what are they cleaning up? Petroleum products, organic compounds PCBs, Dioxins? According to news reports (Journal News- there are various references to the cleanup process on the web, all leading to Lo Hud’s famous “page not found”) there has been a PCB clean up at the site, as reported by Con ED, however, PCBs are rarely cleaned up completely. PCBs are insidious in nature and if you wanted to design a compound that was an excellent environmental nightmare, this is it. They will affect any living organism, do not break down naturally, and become so entrenched in the food chain that we will probably never see a future without them. It is completely plausible to have PCB contamination in the soil and still have good water quality. You can swim in the Hudson but you can’t eat the fish. Like mercury and cadmium, these compounds find their way into the soil where small creatures such as shellfish ingest it, then, the big fish eats the little fish and so on, until it gets to the fish we catch. General Electric’s multi- billion clean up project is a perfect example. Half a century later there are still Department of Health restrictions on seafood caught in the Hudson River from the Hudson Falls region all the way down to New York Harbor. Would you eat a fish if you were told its O.K. but only one per month and not at all if you are a child or pregnant. GE used this stuff 50 years ago and it still affects us. I’ve spent over a decade working in the electric generation industry for GE and Westinghouse and have heard the stories all too often. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, it wasn’t uncommon to work with your arms “up to the elbows” in the PCB laden oil. Transformer oils spilled and not much thought was given at that time because that was the culture. Along with these stories came the cancer stories. Why do you think the stuff was banned? Why do you think GE is spending billions of dollars for clean up.
In cleaning up a toxic site, it’s the end use of the property that determines how clean “clean” is. There is a different level of “clean” for an area used as a parking lot versus a housing unit. They can remove a top layer of contaminated soil and replace it with a soil “cap” ostensibly to keep humans from touching the nasty stuff. The soil below will still contain PCBs and while the surface is protected there is still the likelihood of these compounds finding their way into the food chain, water, and migrating with the natural movement of the soil. It’s also necessary to take into account any other compounds there because it’s the cumulative effect of multiple compounds that make up the chemical “burden” on living organisms and this is where health concerns are hardest to predict.
This is the gorilla in the room. I would urge anyone with details about this, or information on how to get details to post it on this blog site. This is the perfect venue for this discussion because it is unfiltered and open to all. I’ve added some links to try to add some background. I hope it helps.
I have no doubt that when the city and county say the water is OK for swimming, it is. That, however, does not mean there aren’t any toxic chemicals in, what is, Echo Bay.
http://www.scorecard.org/chemical-profiles/summary.tcl?edf_substance_id=1336%2d36%2d3 – safety_assessment