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Government Officials Work Toward a Settlement for a Restoration Plan

The Hudson River PCB-cleanup project is about halfway through, and both governmental officials as well as environmental advocates provided an update on the Superfund project Wednesday. What has not yet begun is a project to restore the Hudson River’s natural resources, including fish and wildlife, but planning for the restoration is underway.

In 2009, General Electric started the remediation of more than 1.3 million pounds of PCBs it discharged into the Hudson River decades ago, from two manufacturing plants in the towns of Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, in the upper stretches of the river. The cleanup is along 40 miles of the river, between Fort Edward and the Troy Dam. David King is the Hudson River PCB remediation field director with the Environmental Protection Agency.

He said the dredging should be finished in three-to-four years. During a forum held Wednesday at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, government officials, including King, and environmental advocates delivered updates on the project.

What has not yet begun is restoration of the 200-mile portion of the Hudson River, from just below Hudson Falls, down to New York City. The Hudson River Natural Resource Trustees for the Hudson River are represented by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. And they are performing a damage assessment, which is separate from EPA’s dredging project. As NOAA’s Tom Brosnan explains, these trustees are responsible for the assessment and restoration of injuries that occurred to natural resources because of PCB contamination.

That report from the government trustees on PCB contamination of the river analyzes data from 2002 through 2008, and cites extensive contamination to fish, wildlife, and habitats. Here’s General Electric spokesman Mark Behan:

However, Tom Brosnan, who is the program manager with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration, says the report helps to lay the groundwork for damages in a settlement case. He says restoration cannot begin until a settlement is reached with the parties responsible for the contamination, because they would be responsible for paying for the restoration. Brosnan said he could not comment on the status of any possible settlement because it’s a legal matter.  As to a potential timeframe for any settlement, he would only say it is more than one year away, but less than five.

Ned Sullivan is the president of Poughkeepsie-based Scenic Hudson, a non-profit environmental group focused on the Hudson River Valley. He is another who spoke during Wednesday’s forum.

As for a restoration plan should a settlement be reached, NOAA’s Brosnan says, in addition to welcoming public input on restoration plans now:

And that public comment period and final plan do not yet have a timeframe, given there’s been no settlement yet on a restoration plan and project.

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