National Geographic : 1978 Jan
An unprecedented PCB concentration-as much as 230 tons-lies in Hudson River sedi ments. From 1946 to 1976 General Electric, a principal user of PCB's, discharged them at the rate of 30 pounds a day with waste water from capacitor plants at Hudson Falls and Fort Edward. In 1973, GE's schedule for low ering its daily discharge to a few ounces was approved by DEC, and later by EPA. Concern over PCB's was legitimate. In 1968 in Japan a machine leak of the com pound into rice oil caused a tragic poisoning. The 1,500 victims of yusho, or oil disease, suf fered skin lesions, swollen limbs, and eye and liver problems. Japan banned PCB's in 1972, and GE developed a substitute fluid for ca pacitors sold there. In August 1975, then commissioner of DEC Ogden Reid learned of startling PCB readings in Hudson fish-as high as 350 parts per mil lion in the flesh of a rock bass. That was 70 times the federally established "safe" level of five parts per million for food fish. Astonished and angry, he appointed a state hearing medi ator to fix GE's responsibility. He later banned commercial fishing on the river, though ex empting shad, blue crab, and mature Atlantic sturgeon because of low traces in those ma rine species. Consumers were advised to eat no more than one river fish a week. As months passed, I listened to Hudson fishermen grow increasingly bitter. After the spring shad run, they stood idle while great schools of striped bass ripped upriver to spawn. Many of the fish had passed Long Is land, where no ban existed and where fisher men were reaping tons of them. "They're the same fish," Howard Jordan waste from plants at Hudson Falls and Fort Edward. Now New York studies how to rid the Hudson of PCB's, which show up in river fish; last winter, technicians lowered a core sampler through ice holes to collect riverbed sediments for monitoring (right).