Advocates for expanded Hudson River cleanup renew call in possible final year of dredging

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GREEN ISLAND, New York — A group of environmentalists and elected officials renewed their call Tuesday for a broader cleanup of the upper-Hudson River as a final year of dredging looms.

General Electric Co. is scheduled to begin its sixth and expected final season of PCB dredging next month as part of a $2 billion federal Superfund project. Long-running calls for GE to dredge PCB "hot spots" outside the project's boundaries are taking on urgency because the company will dismantle the sprawling facility that treats the contaminated river sediments after dredging ends.

"We have a very narrow window of time," said Scenic Hudson president Ned Sullivan, who held a riverside news conference with a handful of local officials and fellow environmentalists.

Environmentalists contend the massive cleanup will be incomplete unless additional areas are dredged. But GE officials maintain that no additional dredging is warranted because the project is meeting all of cleanup goals set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"GE is meeting all of its responsibilities on the Hudson, addressing 100 percent of the PCBs that EPA targeted in the comprehensive dredging project that will be completed this year," company spokesman Mark Behan said in an email.

The Fairfield, Connecticut-based company discharged about 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls from its upriver capacitor plants until 1977. PCBs, which were used as coolants in electrical equipment, are potentially cancer-causing chemicals that can build up in fish over time, posing a risk to those who eat them.

Crews have removed about 2.5 million cubic yards of sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls over five years, with a remaining areas north of Albany expected to be cleaned up before winter.

Environmentalists hope GE will soften its public stance and reach a deal with the Federal Natural Resources Trustees that includes roughly two more seasons of dredging to make the river cleaner and more navigable.

Under Superfund rules, the government trustees will make an assessment of the harm done to the river's resources, either through a settlement with GE over the company's liability or through litigation.

It was not clear on Tuesday if GE was even negotiating with the trustees.

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