The Bottom of the River

Following my last post, here is another about Empire State waterways cribbed from a publication with “New York” in the title (the Times, this time). On Friday, GE began dredging a stretch of the upper Hudson River which they used, for several decades in the middle of the last century, as a dumping ground for toxic industrial sludge. That was a long time ago, though, and times have changed: GE has spent the last few decades trying to wriggle out of having to clean the sludge up under CERCLA, better known as the Superfund law. (This sludge is the source of the PCB marinade for the river’s stripers I mentioned in the previous post.)

Watching the first bucketful of black ooze come up out of the river (video here) brought me back to my days on the Brookline High sailing team on the Charles River in Boston. If you capsized your boat in a shallow spot, the top of the mast would get stuck in the mud and come up coated in fine-grained, stinky black schmear that you had to scrub off with a long-handled broom because of all the heavy metals and other fun stuff in it after two-hundred-plus years of industrial abuse.

I didn’t know anything about this issue before reading Andrew Revkin’s article and blog post about it on Saturday morning, but they were timely, since I had a longstanding plan to ride the Metro North Rail up the river and go hiking with a friend in Nyack, NY. We climbed Hook Mountain, which isn’t really a mountain, but still a pretty impressive bluff overlooking the river. Having grown up on the East Coast and then gone West for college, I currently have this kind of suspicion that there really isn’t any impressive nature east of the Mississippi, but the Hudson River really is huge, and we were overlooking it at its widest point, where it is especially grand. It was kind of nice to know that the day before, away upstream somewhere, some of the last really nasty stuff left in this great river was being removed for the last time and sent to Texas.

tl;dr—The Times has a great map and interactive timeline that give most of the background information in concise, visually-pleasing format.

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