EPA plans Hyde Park fo­rum on dredg­ing

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Wil­liam J. Kem­ble news@free­manon­line.com

HYDE PARK >> The U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency will hold a lo­cal fo­rum Oct. 13 re­gard­ing Gen­eral Elec­tric’s re­cently com­pleted dredg­ing of PCB con­tam­i­na­tion in the Hud­son River and the sta­tus of mon­i­tor­ing in the past year.

The fo­rum will be­gin at 4 p.m. in the Henry A. Wal­lace Vis­i­tor and Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter at the Franklin D. Roo­sevelt his­toric site on U.S. Route 9.

“We’re go­ing to be dis­cussing the five-year re­view process, we’re go­ing to be dis­cussing the pur­pose of the re­view and ... the data we have for fish, wa­ter and sed­i­ment,” said Larisa Ro­manowski, a spokes­woman for the fed­eral agency.

Un­der or­ders from the EPA, Gen­eral Elec­tric dredg­ing the up­per Hud­son River for sev­eral months per year from 2010 to 2015, re­mov­ing soil from the river bot­tom that’s laden with poly­chlo­ri­nated biphenyls, or PCBs, that were dumped into the wa­ter from two up­state GE plants from 1947 to 1977. PCBs, which the com­pany used as coolants in elec­tri­cal equip­ment, were banned

by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in 1977 as a sus­pected car­cino­gen.

The five-year re­view process is the sec­ond be­ing stud­ied by the fed­eral agency, which in Oc­to­ber 2015 de­clared GE had com­pleted dredg­ing re­quired un­der a 2002 or­der. The com­pany has re­ported re­mov­ing 310,000 pounds of PCB-laden sed­i­ment from a 40-mile stretch of the Hud­son River above the Troy Dam.

“There has not been a sign-off on any­thing at this point other than to say GE has com­pleted the work that was re­quired by the EPA,” Ro­manowski said.” There’s some­thing that’s called a ‘cer­tifi­cate of com­ple­tion,’ and that has not yet oc­curred.”

Un­der the agency’s dec­la­ra­tion of the Hud­son River as a Su­per­fund site, the area of con­cern in­cludes the lower Hud­son River ex­tend­ing to New York City.

GE spokesman Mark Be­han said the record should show there has been a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in the level of PCBs in the Up­per Hud­son.

“The EPA de­clared [dredg­ing] a suc­cess,” he said. “In fact, called it a na­tional model and his­toric achieve­ment, and we’re now in the first for­mal post-dredg­ing re­view.”

The en­vi­ron­men­tal group Scenic Hud­son, how­ever, has been crit­i­cal of re­ports from the EPA and has called for GE to carry out more dredg­ing.

“If they are just now re­view­ing whether GE dredged enough, why is dredg­ing done as of Oc­to­ber 2015, and al­most a year later you are ask­ing that ques­tion?” said Althea Mullarkey, Scenic Hud­son’s pub­lic pol­icy and spe­cial projects an­a­lyst. “They’ve taken away their equip­ment, they’ve packed up their toys and they’ve left, and as late as Jan­uary 2016, you have the EPA re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tor say­ing the rem­edy worked. But you’re just now re­view­ing whether the rem­edy worked, so how is that pos­si­ble?”

Mullarkey, who is on the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s re­view panel, said hav­ing a meet­ing in the lower Hud­son River area pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for lo­cal crit­ics to re­quest bet­ter eval­u­a­tions of the dredg­ing.

“This was not an en­gi­neer­ing project,” she said. “This was a dredg­ing project with a very spe­cific pur­pose and that was to achieve very spe­cific en­vi­ron­men­tal and pub­lic health goals, and if they can­not say defini­tively that they’ve achieved those goals or they’re go­ing to get to those goals they laid out in the le­gal agree­ment, then it means the rem­edy is not yet done.”

Scenic Hud­son says the to­tal amount of PCBS dumped in the river by GE is not clear, but Be­han said ex­ten­sive test­ing pro­vided an ac­cu­rate as­sess­ment.

“It was based on 50,000 core sam­ples taken through­out the up­per Hud­son to iden­tify where PCB was lo­cated, in what quan­tity and in what con­cen­tra­tion,” he said. “It’s not based on es­ti­mates. It’s based on ac­tual data.”

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