U.S. Water News Online
HUDSON FALLS, N.Y. -- Gazing across the Hudson River, Winn
Wachtel fears the beautiful view will soon be shattered by one of the
largest dredging projects in American history -- a government-ordered
plan to remove tons of poisonous PCBs from the riverbed.
``People come up from New York City for this. Now there's going to
be so much pollution, muck and sediment. It's outrageous,'' the
60-year-old parole officer said.
The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered General Electric
Co. to pay to remove 2.65 million cubic yards of contaminated
sediment -- enough to fill about 40 football fields 30 feet deep --
from a 40-mile stretch of the river. One of two old GE plants dumped
1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson before the federal
government banned the pollutants in 1977.
Residents of northern river communities have been fighting
dredging proposals ever since. Some complain their lives will be
disrupted by a project that now seems inevitable.
State officials still have 15 business days to review the plan,
which doesn't become official until it is formally signed.
The EPA classifies PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, as a
probable carcinogen and says the oily substance poses risks to
wildlife and to people who eat fish from the Hudson.
``If you have a cancer, you need to get it out,'' said postal
worker Mark Backus.
But others question where the contaminated mud will be taken and
how much pollution stirred from the river bottom will flow
The final dredging plan includes ``performance standards'' for air
quality and noise. But environmentalists lobbied against performance
standards for water, saying they could expose the plan to legal
challenges and further delays. The EPA said standards would be
developed with public input during the three-year design stage.
``How much of an increase in PCBs will be acceptable?'' asked Tim
Havens, Sr., president of an anti-dredging citizen's group called
CEASE. ``How much wetlands will be destroyed? Where would
environmentalists draw the line on damage to the ecosystem?''
But environmentalists, including the Sierra Club, praised the EPA
for resisting a fierce lobbying campaign from GE to weaken the plan.
``It's clear the majority of the people in the state of New York
who have thought about it support the cleanup of the river,'' said
Jeff Jones of the Environmental Advocates lobby group.
GE spokesman Mark Behan said company officials would not comment
until they reviewed the plan.
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