The latest attempt by General Electric to avoid responsibility for polluting the Hudson River is very similar to all the others. But the latest one has more consequences because if the federal Environmental Protection Agency buys what GE is selling, the pollutants remaining in the river will never be removed and will continue to spread until one day, perhaps only a couple of years from now, taxpayers will be forced to pay for what GE has done.

The company fought long and hard when the original efforts were made to force dredging to remove the polychlorinated biphenyls that had been dumped in the river over decades. Eventually, GE and the EPA came to an agreement and the dredges scooped up muck and poisons along about 40 miles of the river between Fort Edward and Troy between 2009 and 2014.

As a story in the Albany Times-Union reported this week, that accounted for a little more than 70 percent of the PCBs known to be in the river, leaving 120,000 pounds behind including those in the Champlain Canal.

The state blew its best chance to keep the cleanup going a few years ago, letting GE tell the contractors to remove the barges with the blessing of the EPA. At the time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was busy courting GE to move its headquarters to New York and did not want to antagonize the management. GE eventually decided to go elsewhere, leaving the governor and the PCBs behind. Now, the state has spent $2 million on samples and with the EPA poised to certify that GE has done all that it should, New York is frantically trying to catch up and the results from an analysis of those samples clearly explain the need to move quickly.

A consultant hired by Scenic Hudson has found that PCBs left behind have spread to areas that were cleaned up by removing the contaminants and then covering the river bottom with clean fill.

The analysis found PCB hot spots in two areas in Saratoga County and determined that “the only reasonable conclusion is that the dredged areas have been recontaminated by PCB-laden sediment from non-dredged areas located nearby.”

GE disagrees, as it has with other similar findings in the past. But it seems to focus only on the areas that have been cleaned, not on the ones that were not touched nor on the areas that the analysis finds have been recontaminated.

The EPA seems to be taking these new findings seriously. Earlier this year it agreed that there were places in the river with PCB levels well above safety guidelines for fish, human consumption of fish and drinking water. So there is still hope that the EPA will agree with the state’s findings and refuse to certify that GE has completed the task.

We can expect GE to push back on any such decision and it is hard to know what the EPA will do given its present leadership. What we do know is that if GE is not made to continue the work it should never have abandoned, state taxpayers will end up paying for the work.