General Electric Hudson Falls Plant, New York

This General Electric Plant, along with another, one mile downstream at Fort Edward, is the source of the PCBs that line the sediments of the Hudson River, making what some call the "largest Superfund Site in the Nation" (the watershed downstream of Butte, Montana also makes this claim). GE first took over this former paper mill to build parts for bombers in WWII. After the war, it became a major production site for capacitors and transformers, devices that used PCBs, a stable and nonconducting fluid, as insulation, until 1976, when PCBs were regulated out of common use due to health concerns about the material. During this period, GE discharged over a million pounds of PCBs through outfall pipes directly into the river. The pollution of the river caused fishing on the affected stretch, from Hudson Falls to Troy, to be outlawed in 1976, and a catch and release only law exists to this day downstream of the plant. Lingering deposits of PCBs, including 600,000 pounds pooled up in the ground under the parking lot of the Fort Edward plant, may still be be leaching into the river. The worst toxic deposits along the shores of the river are known and are fenced-off. The idea that the underwater sediments could continue to contaminate the river for decades has led to one of the most heated environmental debates in the history of New York. Most environmental groups support the dredging of these deposits. GE contends that disturbing the sediments will only make the matter worse.