National Geographic : 1978 Jan
said. "Is there a gate at the Battery?" Others charged politics in Albany, saying, "We're just crumbs." While the state attempted to keep PCB's off the dinner tables, some GE employees realized they had handled and inhaled the chemicals for years. Their union asked noted cancer researcher Dr. Irving J. Selikoff of New York City's Mount Sinai Medical Center to begin a long-range study. So far, he has found skin problems; other ailments that may be PCB-related are under investigation. He explains: "PCB's in trace amounts may not be immediately toxic. But like inhaling cig arette smoke and asbestos, ingesting PCB's over long periods might present a risk." A River Clean Enough to Drink? In 1976 the state mediator determined that GE had violated water quality standards. The firm has converted to a substitute that, it claims, will "virtually eliminate environmen tal risk," and has built a $3,500,000 waste treatment plant. In a negotiated settlement, GE paid $4,000,000 toward research and river cleanup. DEC agreed to pay $3,000,000, acknowledging its negligence in watchdog ging. The unusually high settlement signals that industry and regulatory agencies may be held responsible for past mistakes. In one way the PCB crisis actually pushed river cleanup a step ahead. It focused na tional attention on dangerous chemicals that, once loose in the environment, cannot be con trolled. Congress last fall, after five years of debate, passed a Toxic Substances Control Act; now new chemicals suspected of being risks must undergo prior testing before they reach the marketplace. The act singles out PCB's for total ban by 1979. But what of all the older, untested chem icals going into the river? PCB's are only the tip of the iceberg, the Environmental Defense Fund charges. It wants EPA and DEC to monitor much more rigorously. How much cleaner should the river be? A lot cleaner, if many New Yorkers have their way. They are looking to it as a source of more drinking water. Reservoirs on tributaries sup ply millions of residents in the basin, but only 100,000 people in seven communities get their water directly from the Hudson. The river could be a major source of supply for New York City and nearby counties, says the Army Corps of Engineers. Anticipating a doubling of demand by the year 2020, it sug gests withdrawing 400 million gallons a day from the 21 billion gallons that flow past Esopus during spring runoff, when the salt line lies far to the south. Such plans are sub ject to public scrutiny, and already opposi tion is gearing up. Won't the withdrawal pull the salt line north, upsetting natural balances? Won't the project ruin a scenic stretch of Red-cheeked as their prizes, twins Jody and Robin Feder carry a fall treat from the J. R. Clarke & Son fruit farm near Milton. South of Rip Van Winkle Bridge (facing page), Greendale Farm raises apples, pears, grapes, and hay. River towns try to balance growth with guardianship of their "win dows" on the water. The Hudson: "That River's Alive"