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December 4, 2001
E.P.A. Orders G.E. to Dredge Hudson River
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 4:17 p.m., ET, Tuesday, December 4, 2001
(Reproduced on HudsonWatch.net without permission)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration on Tuesday ordered tons of
PCBs removed from New York's upper Hudson River, setting in motion one
of the largest dredging operations in the nation's history.
General Electric Co., which dumped 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the
river before the substance was banned by the federal government in 1977,
bitterly opposes dredging. The cleanup is expected to cost the company
some $500 million.
The final decision from the Environmental Protection Agency mirrors
a plan formulated by the Clinton administration and endorsed by EPA last
``We are going forward with this important cleanup,'' EPA Administrator
Christie Whitman said.
The decision caps a quarter-century of false starts and conflicting
studies over what to do with polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, buried
in the river bottom. PCBs, used as insulation and a coolant, have
been linked to cancer in laboratory animals. The EPA classifies the oily
substance as a probable carcinogen and says PCBs pose risks to wildlife
and to people who eat fish from the Hudson.
GE released PCBs from its plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, about
40 miles north of Albany.
The EPA said it transmitted its decision to state officials, who now
have 15 business days to review it before it is released officially. If
GE refuses to go along with the cleanup, the EPA can start the work on
its own and charge the company up to triple the cost.
The first step is to work out engineering details of the plan to dredge
2.65 million cubic yards of sediment, enough to fill about 40 football
fields 30 feet deep. That could take several years.
Upstate communities where the dredging would occur are among the strongest
opponents, fearing long lines of dump trucks and related activities will
disrupt everyday life. They also do not want contaminated mud placed in
A 197-mile stretch of the Hudson River from Hudson Falls to the tip
of lower Manhattan was placed on the federal Superfund cleanup list in
1984 after PCBs were found in the river bed. The EPA did not order a cleanup,
choosing instead to monitor the situation.
PCB levels slowly decreased. GE said the river was cleansing itself
and dredging would only make the problem worse, but environmentalists argued
PCBs levels were dangerously high and needed to be cleaned quickly to protect
Eventually the Clinton administration came up with a dredging plan last
year. In the public comment period that followed, tens of thousands of
opinions poured in. The huge response prompted the EPA to push back its
final decision, initially scheduled for the spring. The decision was delayed
again by the September terrorist attacks in New York
GE's options shrink now that the final decision is in. The federal Superfund
law, under which the dredging is being ordered, is largely immune to lawsuits.
GE has, however, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court challenging the
constitutionality of the Superfund law itself.
Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/
Electric Co.: http://www.ge.com/
© 2001 The New York Times Company
The Associated Press news story above published in
New York Times is reproduced on HudsonWatch.net without permission.
General Electric Ordered
to Pay for Cleanup of Hudson
By Eric Pianin and Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 5, 2001; Page A02
(Reproduced on HudsonWatch.net without permission)
EPA Mandates $500 Million Dredging
The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday ordered General Electric
Co. to pay nearly half a billion dollars to dredge toxic chemicals off
the floor of the upper Hudson River, despite vigorous efforts by the company
and its political allies to derail or dilute the plan.
While making some modest concessions to the company, EPA Administrator
Christine Todd Whitman held fast to the essential proposal unveiled last
summer calling for the dredging of 2.65 million cubic yards of contaminated
sediment along 40 miles of the picturesque Hudson. The riverbed from just
north of Albany upstream to Fort Edward was contaminated with PCBs from
GE manufacturing plants over several decades.
"We are going ahead with this important cleanup," Whitman said. "We
will do so with a continuing open process that will involve all parties."
The final decision capped an epic environmental battle that in recent
years pitted the industrial giant, which insisted in millions of dollars'
worth of advertising that the dredging would further damage the river,
against environmentalists and New York's political establishment, including
Gov. George E. Pataki and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer.
Some upstate Republicans, from Rep. John E. Sweeney to state Senate
Majority Leader Joe Bruno, vowed to press appeals with President Bush in
August, after Whitman preliminarily approved the plan. But GE came away
with only minor concessions from an administration generally considered
more sympathetic to big business than environmentalists -- mostly promises
for public hearings on several important performance standards associated
with the cleanup.
"Overall, we're pleased Administrator Whitman recommited to the cleanup
and the restoration of the Hudson," said Chris Ballantyne, director of
the Sierra Club's Hudson River campaign. "We thought GE would seek to kill
the cleanup before it began."
"This cleanup is essential to the future of the river," said Richard
Schiafo, environmental project manager for Scenic Hudson, which has led
the battle to dredge the river. "We have a broken water highway and it
Gary Shefford, a GE spokesman, said the company would reserve comment
"until we have a document we can look at," although he said GE approved
of some of the EPA's last-minute changes on performance standards.
The decision met with far less approval from some public officials along
the twisting upper Hudson.
Merrilyn Pulver, the Fort Edward town supervisor, has led the impassioned
battle against dredging the river, arguing that it would be another nail
in the coffin of an economically depressed region. She spoke with little
surprise of today's decision and said opponents would now concentrate on
ensuring the tightest possible regulations.
Her greatest concern is that the dredging will stir up PCBs that now
lie dormant on the river bottom -- as the GE ads warned. She wants General
Electric and the EPA to continually test the river waters during the dredging.
If more contaminants than exist now are found floating -- resuspended,
in scientific lingo -- in the river, she wants the dredging to stop.
"It's a no-brainer," she said. "If there are true environmentalists
here, they should join us."
The administration plan, formally transmitted yesterday to New York
environmental officials, would remove in two phases about 150,000 pounds
of polychlorinated biphenyls that were dumped in the Hudson.
The plan specifies stringent air quality and noise standards associated
with the dredging, measures favored by environmentalists and the company.
Other standards -- for determining the permissible levels of PCBs that
could be resuspended in the water during dredging and the amount of material
that could be removed and dried at nearby sites -- would be worked out
later after public hearings including state and federal officials, environmental
groups and local communities.
Environmental leaders said they had feared that GE might derail the
plan by persuading the EPA this summer to adopt performance standards so
tough that they would be virtually impossible to meet using existing technology.
"We're pleased Governor Whitman has done the right thing and issued
the right decision," said Katherine Kennedy of the Natural Resources Defense
Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Sweeney, said that Whitman's final decision
"represents a significant shift by the EPA with regard to performance standards
. . . and has finally addressed the core concerns of affected communities."
© 2001 The Washington Post Company
The Washington Post news story above is reproduced
on HudsonWatch.net without permission.