- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 6, 2005


The government and General Electric Co. struck a deal yesterday on dredging PCB-contaminated sediment from New York’s Hudson River, hastening a Superfund cleanup that could cost $500 million or more.

The deal announced by the Environmental Protection Agency means that dredging should begin in spring 2007 on a 40-mile stretch of river north of Albany, N.Y.

The news was greeted as a partial victory by environmental groups because some contended the deal helps GE avoid the largest share of cleanup costs.

The agreement calls on GE to pay the government up to $78 million of the EPA’s bill, in addition to $37 million already paid.

The company said it has spent about $100 million in preparation work for the dredging, and the deal commits it to an additional $100 million to $150 million of work.

“This is an historic agreement that commits GE to begin dredging the Hudson River,” EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said.

GE will build a sediment-processing facility in Fort Edward, N.Y., and dredge from spring to fall of 2007.

The company plans to build a 1,450-foot-long terminal for the sediment facility to move up to 250 rail cars full of sediment a week.

The deal also calls for a scientific review after the first phase is completed. Then GE will decide whether it will carry out the second phase, which is expected to take five years.

GE dumped an estimated 1.3 million pounds of PCBs — a viscous liquid coolant used in transformers — into the river from its plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls before the federal government banned the substance in 1977.

The toxin PCB, or polychlorinated biphenyl, is classified as a probable cause of cancer.

The EPA decided in 2002 to dredge 2.65 million cubic yards of toxic sediment from the river. The initial cost estimate then was $500 million, but officials now say the total price may surpass $700 million.

Christian Ballantine of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said the deal was a victory, albeit partial, for their cleanup efforts.

“The environmental community wanted GE to finally accept responsibility and put their corporate know-how to work.”

But the group Riverkeeper said the agreement gives GE an incentive to fail and walk away from the longer, more costly cleanup work to come.

EPA Regional Administrator Alan Steinberg defended the deal as “a very strong settlement that ensures this dredging is going to begin.”

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