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Saratoga County Lawmakers Seek Increased PCB Monitoring

Dredging of the Hudson River

Lawmakers in Saratoga County have passed a resolution calling on General Electric to monitor flood plains along the Hudson River for chemical contamination. 

The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a measure that would ask General Electric to test for polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in the banks and floodplains along the Hudson.

GE is in its fifth year of its dredging and remediation work to remove the believed-to-be cancer-causing chemicals that were deposited into the Hudson from the 1940s to the 1970s.

Currently, GE is doing work in the Schuylerville/Stillwater area.

The measure was introduced by Town of Saratoga supervisor Tom Wood. Mechanicville supervisor Tom Richardson, who also chairs the Historic Hudson-Hoosic River Partnership, believes PCB contamination is traveling downstream from the ongoing dredging and is contaminating low-lying areas around the river.

“We know that for a fact because in [Fort] Hardy Park in Schuylerville, there was a kayak/canoe launch that was put in there fairly recently, and because of the flood this year, with the heavy rains, that facility can no longer be used because it’s contaminated with PCB’s,” said Richardson.

Richardson said the county’s concern is related to the old Champlain Canal that runs along the current canal. The old canal is being filled with sediment. Richardson is concerned that a flooding event could take sediment that could possibly be contaminated with PCBs from the old canal site close to water intakes for the village of Victory and Town of Saratoga.

“That old canal system sits 19-feet higher above their wells that are taking water fairly close to the river,” said Richardson. “The problem is that there is ever a breach in the old canal, that will contaminate their water source, and they have no secondary water source."

EPA owns a water line running from Troy to the communities of Halfmoon and Waterford, in place to supply clean water to during the dredging project.

The legislation also calls for navigational dredging along the current Champlain Canal. GE is scheduled to wrap up its dredging work by the end of 2015.

Malta supervisor Paul Sausville, chair of the board of supervisors, said the protection of the lands and properties along the Hudson is a priority for the county.

“We want to bring it to the attention of GE and the Environmental Protection Agency, and we’d like to finish the job and do it correctly,” said Sausville.

GE spokesman Mark Behan said that since 2007, GE has continued it’s monitoring in approximately 500 sites from Fort Edward to Troy, and that information related to PCB detection is communicated to property owners and the EPA.

“The next step will be for EPA and GE to put together a plan to evaluate and develop a long-term remedial program for the floodplains. We’re in the process of doing that. The floodplain work will continue, I expect, even after dredging work is completed in 2016," said Behan.

Behan said any flood plain remedial work completed after 2016 would not require use of the dewatering facility in Fort Edward, used for the treatment of contaminated sediment.

The county is concerned the scheduled decommissioning of the dewatering plant could impact the additional dredging they are requesting.

Behan said areas tested that have shown PCB contamination along the Hudson have had soil covers installed, but in most areas sampled, little-to-no PCBs  have been found.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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