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Tuesday, 05-Dec-2000 10:24:20 EST

Sources: EPA to change venue

Agency to release PCB remedy early

Gazette Reporter

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may release its decision on how to deal with PCB contamination in the Hudson River as early as Wednesday in New York City, EPA sources said Monday.

 The federal agency earlier had announced it would make the "historic" announcement at the Saratoga Springs City Center on Dec. 12.

 Why the EPA pushed up the announcement and shifted it to New York City could not be determined Monday.

 But sources said the official announcement of the changed date and location will come today.

 Since 1990, the EPA has been reassessing its 1984 decision that called for "no action" regarding the hundreds of tons of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls, a suspected carcinogen) discharged into the Hudson by General Electric Co. capacitor plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward from the mid-1940s until 1977, when the practice was banned by the government.

 The EPA will unveil a "remedy" feasibility study this week on how the PCB contamination should be handled - including the possibility of dredging the upper Hudson to remove the pollution.

 GE and many local governments in upstate New York have been strongly opposed to any dredging project, saying such an approach would cause environmental damage to a river that has been making a "remarkable" recovery in recent years.

 Mark L. Behan, a GE spokesman, said Monday he has heard informal talk that the EPA may release its feasibility plan earlier than expected but said he has seen nothing official about it.

 Brad Card, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. John E. Sweeney, R-Halfmoon, said Monday the congressman had not been informed that the PCB remedy decision would be made in New York City rather than in Sweeney's 22nd Congressional District.

 "The congressman would be extremely disappointed," Card said about the change in location.

 He said if the EPA decides to make the announcement in Manhattan - where EPA's Region II headquarters is located - rather than in Saratoga County, it would be like "turning their back" on the residents and region where a possible clean-up project would be conducted.

 On Nov. 20 the EPA announced that it planned to hold two public meetings to "present and discuss" the proposed plan for the Hudson River. The first public meeting was scheduled for Dec. 12 in Saratoga Springs and the second was scheduled for Dec. 14 in Poughkeepsie.

 At these meetings, EPA officials said they would "discuss the alternative which the agency is proposing as the best method for addressing the contaminated sediments of the upper Hudson River."

 Each of the public meetings, which EPA sources said may still be held as "availability" sessions, were to include a 4:30 p.m. open house at which the EPA's Hudson River remedy plan exhibit would be on display and a more formal 7 p.m. meeting at which EPA officials would outline their plan for dealing with the river pollution.

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