NEWS OF THE WEEK
ENVIRONMENT
August 6, 2001
Volume 79, Number 32
CENEAR 79 32 p. 8
ISSN 0009-2347
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GE TOLD TO DREDGE UP THE PAST
EPA calls for excavating PCB-tainted sediments from Hudson River

CHERYL HOGUE

Sediments contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from two General Electric plants will be removed from the Hudson River under an EPA plan unveiled last week.

THE SOURCE PCB oils used in the manufacture of industrial capacitors at this Hudson Falls GE plant that were discharged into the river must be dredged from the sediment.
The proposal, announced by EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, endorses a half-billion-dollar course of action laid out by the Clinton Administration in December 2000 (C&EN, Dec. 11, 2000, page 11). But Whitman's plan has an additional component: regular evaluation of PCB levels in sediment and river water, and measurements of how much of the dredged material gets resuspended in the water. EPA will determine at various stages of the cleanup whether to continue with the dredging.

Under the plan, as much as 2.65 million cu yards of tainted sediments would be removed from the river. The Hudson is estimated to hold some 1.1 million lb of PCBs legally discharged into the river from two GE plants that, from the 1940s until 1977, used PCBs in electrical equipment they manufactured.

GE fought hard against the dredging plan, arguing that sediment removal "will cause more harm than good" and that it would be better to leave the PCBs in place.

"This is a loss for the people of the area who overwhelmingly oppose this project and the decades of disruption it will bring to their communities," GE says.

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