General Electric: Polychlorinated Biphenyls in the Hudson River

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

PCBs are compounds that house hydrogen atoms, chlorine and to a larger extent biphenyls. These compounds are used for the construction of many industrial products. Additionally, they have negative effects on the surroundings. According to studies, these compounds pile up in animal tissues in case they are consumed in big amounts. It is a fact that they are not affected by increased temperatures and do not dissolve in water. As a result, these qualities make them suitable for the manufacture of diverse substances like capacitors. Despite their importance in manufacturing industries, they are hazardous to animals and human beings.

General electric

General Electric is an industry with subsidiaries in numerous countries. It is noteworthy that, for decades this industry has been disposing of PCB by-products into the Hudson River. These byproducts result from its manufacturing plant that focuses on the invention of capacitors, positioned along the Hudson River. The wastes are usually dumped into the river without undergoing the required treatment.

Hence, the company has been disposing of raw PCB waste into the river for very increased durations. According to the study conducted by an agency dealing with the listing of noxious substances and diseases, it was noted that PCBs have a variety of effects when ingested by human beings. One of the consequences of the introduction to PCBs is the intrusion into the reproductive system. It was also noted that babies are often malformed in case they were exposed to PCBs while still in the uterus. Furthermore, the high-serum levels in PCBs are said to result in a frail immune system, diabetes, and liver infections. Lastly, exposure to these PCBs triggers the advance of cancer diseases in the body.


One of the stakeholders in this issue is the ‘Environmental Protection Agency’ (EPA) whose mandate is to invent and put into practice policies that help in curbing ecological pollution activities. Thus, EPA came in handy and banned the discarding of PCBs into the river citing its injurious effects on the environment which includes the marine animals and the citizens living along the river. EPA also studied the predicaments of PCBs and issued a declaration on the choice for banning the PCB disposed into the Hudson River. The other stakeholder is the ‘Department for Environmental Conservation’ (DEC) whose liability is to prevent harm from existing ecological pollution. As a result, DEC proscribed fishing at the higher side of the Hudson River. This was destined to reduce the effects of the PCB on human beings that come about through the intake of unhygienic fish.

Policy formulation

The formulation of policies concerning the question of General Electric’s contamination of the River is done at the federal stage through the EPA. The formulated policies are then handed over to the states that will execute them at the local level. The formulated policies are imposed at the confined level by the field officers who follow directives from the states. The meaning of the federal government is only to administer the execution of the EPA’s formulated laws.

Current state and resolution

Currently, the EPA has directed the General Electric industry to set up mechanisms through which it will remove the PCB sediments from the River. This led to the business contesting this directive in court. As a result, the company reached an accord with the EPA that it should start the river clean-up process. However, the agreement seemed to be litigious as the company was given a choice of continuing with the clean-up or withdrawing after it eliminates 10% of the sediments. In the end, a decree to the issue was proposed whereby the federal government stated that in case General Electric withdraws from the cleanup process after removal of 10% of the sediments, then taxpayers’ capital will be used to foot the bill for the conclusion of the cleanup project.