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Commentary/
Some secret!

by Robert L. Henrickson
East Nassau, New York
Thursday, February 8, 2001
To those who were responsible enough to attend the U.S.-E.P.A.'s December hearing in Saratoga, and to become informed on the Hudson River clean-up plan, E.P.A.'s alleged 'dirty little secret' -- at least that's what The Troy Record calls it  -- is alas, neither dirty nor a secret.  ("E.P.A.'s dirty little secret,"  The Troy Record, February 6, 2001)

This matter of dewatering sites is hardly a revelation, especially since E.P.A. spent considerable time at the hearing going over it in detail.  It is certainly not the  'turning point' that some would lead the public to believe.  I am referring to the uninformed (or disingenuous) politicians and others who would curiously advocate for maintaining a poisoned river (presently, at least 500 lbs. of hazardous chemicals pour uncontained over the Troy dam every year).

The Albany Times-Union story by Dennis Yusko is at least a bit more balanced, though it too hypes the dewatering sites portion of E.P.A.'s clean-up plan as being some sort of major revelation: 'Dredging foes reveal EPA is considering 12 places for drying PCB-laden muck....'  ("More sites make list for sludge,"  Albany Times-Union, February 6, 2001)

At Saratoga, E.P.A. made it crystal clear they would need two sites with rail access where sediment, after environmentally-careful removal from the River, could be barged for dewatering, and loaded into boxcars prior to shipment to a safe, permitted, out-of-state containment location.  The Agency was hoping to find one of those dewatering sites near the Port of Albany, and the other near Fort Edward.

It is time to face two simple, yet important facts: Research regarding the serious public health impacts of PCB's accrues almost daily.  What's more, dredging is no big deal -- during the 1970's, almost one million cubic yards of sediment were dredged from the Hudson River.  Was there disruption then?  Was there a river shutdown?  Of course not!  People hardly even remember that dredge project. (G.E. wasn't under the gun to pay for that one.)

Fulfilling our role as stewards of our natural resources for future generations by cleaning-up hazardous pollution in this magnificent river is a wise, and overdue move.  Wiser yet is that it should take place at responsible party General Electric Company's expense, not taxpayer expense.  This is not only reasonable and fair, but right.  I suspect it is also why the NUCC membership voted to endorse the E.P.A. plan on January 24, 2001.

The clean-up of these hazardous chemicals is inevitable.  Take it from someone living near Nassau's Dewey Loeffel Toxic Dump: the E.P.A. plan is opportunity pounding down the door.  It is beyond understanding why everyone is not answering this call.  What would you prefer -- G.E. picking up the $460 million tab, or New York State (or U.S.) taxpayers having to foot the bill?

(Robert L. Henrickson is president of the Nassau Union of Concerned Citizens, Inc., and a trustee on the Village Board of East Nassau, New York.  He may be reached via e-mail at: rlhe@localnet.com)

Editor's Note: The above article is compiled from Mr. Henrickson's letters-to-the-editor sent to The Troy Record and Albany Times-Union in response to those newspapers' recent coverage of Hudson River matters.

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