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EPA Accepting Comments On Closure Of Facility As Dredging Period Ends

The Environmental Protection Agency logo
The Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is asking for public input on a plan to dismantle and decontaminate a processing facility that was built to support PCB dredging efforts in the upper Hudson. While many officials from surrounding communities have called for additional dredging, others would like to see things wrapped up sooner.  

EPA's Processing Facility Demobilization and Restoration Plancenters around the dewatering facility in Fort Edward in Washington County that processes PCB-contaminated sediment dredged from the Hudson.

As G.E. nears completion of its final season of dredging, the plant and its infrastructure including concrete slabs, roadways, train tracks, buildings are to be decontaminated. The company has resisted calls by many environmentalists and elected officials to continue cleaning up the river beyond the dredging period.

Village of Fort Edward mayor Matthew Traver said he would like to see the facility closed on schedule.

"Our feelings here in Fort Edward, and I can speak for the Village Board, we certainly are looking forward to the decommissioning of that facility so we can look forward to redevelopment of the entire area over there. I know the current landowners are certainly excited and looking forward to try to go out and market that to try and bring other industries in to the area to help Washington County and Fort Edward," said Travor.

The mayor's sentiment is echoed by Kingsbury supervisor Jim Lindsay, chair of the Washington County Board of Supervisors.

"It's time to move forward and close it down," said Lindsay.

Meanwhile, this summer a coalition of Hudson River lawmakers sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo and General Electric, calling for expanding dredging from the Hudson into the Champlain Canal.

Democratic Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner represents portions of Saratoga and Washington Counties, including Fort Edward, and signed on to the July letter .  

“I think that the task of cleaning up the section of the Hudson River from the southern end of the Champlain Canal, north to Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, is not fully done, and while the facilities are still in place, we need GE to finish the job.”

At the same time, Queensbury Assemblyman Dan Stec, the ranking Republican on the Assembly's Environmental Conservation committee, told WAMC if dredging equipment is removed, it would be hard to get it back.

“Mobilization of the effort is a big part of the expense, so once the equipment is packed up and leaves, that’s a big deal to ever say ‘Hey, you know, we wish we would have done this 10 years ago. Let’s try to bring it back here.’  So the appropriate time to say that we’re sure we’re satisfied and we’re sure that we’re done, and that a good place for the community is to do it now,” said Stec.

To that argument, Mayor Traver said he believes work could still continue even if the Fort Edward processing facility was shut down.

"What I do know is there's been PCB's that have been removed from different materials before on a much smaller scale, so I think if the lion's share of these PCBs have been removed, that some of these areas, the levels of PCBs may be much lower than areas that were dredged. Removal of that material could be processed perhaps on site, or closer to where ever they're taking it out, so you may not be talking as a facility as we have right here, right now," said the mayor.

EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck has said she would support additional dredging if General Electric could reach an agreement with the Hudson River Natural Resource Trustees, including members of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that are conducting a Natural Resources Damages Assessment on the Hudson.

G.E. has maintained that it has fulfilled all of its duties and will have eliminated all of the PCB hotspotstargeted by EPA.

The EPA will take comments on the plan to decommission and decontaminate the Fort Edward processing facility until September 26th.

Written comments should be emailed or mailed to Gary Klawinski at the EPA’s Hudson River Field Office:

Gary Klawinski, Director

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Region 2 Hudson River Field Office 
187 Wolf Road, Suite 303 
Albany, NY 12205

For more information visit: http://www.epa.gov/hudson/

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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