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PCB Remediation and Recovery of Fish Communities in the Upper Hudson River

Over a 30 year period from the late 1940s to the late 1970s, over a million pounds of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were released into the Upper Hudson River. These compounds  cause a number of harmful effects to fish and other aquatic wildlife, as well as the humans who might consume them. Since 2009, dredging and backfilling to remove and replace PCB-contaminated sediments has been taking place in a 40-mile stretch of the river from Fort Edward to the Federal Dam in Troy. When clean-up efforts have been completed, fish will be tested to demonstrate that PCB levels in their flesh have declined, however, no post-dredging monitoring of the overall recovery of biological communities from these large scale ecological disturbances has been planned. In collaboration with Dr. Denise Mayer (NYSM Cambridge Field Laboratory), we have received a research grant from the Hudson River Foundation to examine the rates and relationships of fish and invertebrate community recoveries in dredged areas of the Upper Hudson. Our surveys and studies will encompass a broad range of environmental and biological variables, in order to better understand the interplay between these communities and the river itself, as well as the clean-up activities that have occurred there. This work has great potential to inform future policy decisions regarding the Upper Hudson River fishery, as well as large river clean-up projects nation- and worldwide, considering that less than 10% of these operations have planned to examine post-remediation recovery of biological communities in this way.